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Who Should Get Checked?

Most women age 21-69, who have ever been sexually active should have a regular Pap test every 3 years. Transgender men and women may also need regular Pap tests.

Sexual activity includes:

  • oral, genital or rectal skin-to-skin contact, or
  • sex with sex toys.

Why every 3 years?

Having a Pap test every year or two offers very little added benefit over having a Pap test every three years and can expose women to unnecessary harms including:

  • discomfort or bleeding from the test,

  • anxiety that may results from abnormal test results,

  • over-diagnosis of abnormal cell changes that would go away on their own, and

  • problems with future pregnancies from some treatments during colposcopy.

Why are Pap tests not recommended under 21 years of age?

The harms of screening under 21 significantly outweigh the benefits.

  • Pap tests and follow-up procedures can expose young women to unnecessary risks including:
    • Discomfort or bleeding from the tests,
    • Anxiety that may result from abnormal test results,
    • Over-diagnosis of abnormal cell changes that would go away on their own, and
    • Problems with future pregnancies from some treatments during colposcopy.

  • Cervical cancer is very rare in women younger than 21years of age.
    • Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a common sexually transmitted virus that can cause abnormal changes on the cervix and cervical cancer.
    • Most HPV infections in young women do not cause cancer and 90% of infections will disappear on their own within 2 years without any treatment.
    • When the infection does not go away, abnormal changes develop that may lead to cervical cancer. These changes take many years to happen.
    • Delaying screening to age 21 will still find abnormal changes – if they happen – before they turn into cancer.

     

Should I get checked if:  
I have never had sexual contact? No
I have only had one partner? Yes
I am a lesbian or am a woman who has had sex with women? Yes
I am post-menopausal? Yes
I have no family history of cervical cancer? Yes
I have had a hysterectomy but I still have my cervix? Yes
I am under 21? No
I have had the HPV vaccine? Yes
I am a trans man who has a cervix? Yes
I am a trans woman who has had bottom surgery to create a cervix? Yes

 

If you have questions about your screening eligibility, talk to your health care provider or contact CervixCheck.

If you are not sure when you last had a Pap test, you can request your cervical cancer screening history from CervixCheck.

 

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