Are you due for a Pap test? Don't skip it

A woman with short silver hair and crossed arms looks coolly into the camera.

Jan. 30, 2019—Cervical cancer rates dropped drastically after the introduction of regular Pap tests. So why aren't more women staying current with this screening test?

According to a study published in the Journal of Women's Health, less than two-thirds of women ages 30 to 65 were current on recommended cervical cancer screenings in 2016. Just over half of women ages 21 to 29 were current on their screenings.

Women reported much higher rates when queried by a national survey in 2015. According to those self-reports, 81 percent of women were current with their Pap tests.

The American Cancer Society (ACS) recommends women begin screening for cervical cancer at age 21. Women ages 21 to 29 should have a Pap test every three years.

After that, women can have a Pap test combined with a test for the human papillomavirus (HPV) every five years until age 65. Or women can opt for screening with just the Pap test every three years until age 65, says the ACS.

The Pap test looks at cells taken from the cervix to try to spot cancerous changes. The HPV test looks for signs of the virus. Nearly all cases of cervical cancer are caused by HPV infection.

Learn more in our Cervical Cancer health topic center.

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