Yes! It’s not easy for us to keep up with the pap smear guidelines, so we can’t expect our patients to know them. The confusion surrounding the frequency of gynecology appointments stems from the changing pap smear guidelines. Although you may not receive a pap smear every year, you still need a gynecology check up.
Our practice has agreed to pap smear guidelines that are more conservative than those recommended by the US Preventative Health Task Force. The Task Force guidelines use cost-effectiveness calculations to determine pap smear frequency. Our practice has agreed to the following pap smear frequency:
- If you are 21-29, you will receive a pap smear every 2 years. We will look for HPV only if the pap smear is abnormal.
- If you are over 30, you will receive a pap smear every 3 years if you are low risk.
- For high risk patients over 21 (previous high grade dysplasia, previous DES exposure, immuncompromised), you will receive a pap smear every year
- Those patients over 65 with normal pap smear history as well as those patients with hysterectomies for non cancerous reasons will no longer receive pap smears.
Although you may not get a pap smear every year, it is recommended that women come for a check up each year that includes a breast and pelvic exam. At these appointments, we also take the opportunity to address preventive healthcare including menstruation, birth control, pregnancy planning, menopausal changes, diet and exercise.
Lastly, if you know you do not “need” a pap but you want one, please let us know prior to starting your exam. We have the collect the specimen during the first part of your exam. Please realize that eventually the government and private insurance carriers will refuse to pay for paps that are collected outside the guidelines, leaving you with the balance. It is the patients responsibility to confirm insurance coverage of more frequent pap smears.
Thank you for the contribution this week from Dr Robbins.