Do I need a Pap test/Pap smear?

If you are a woman aged between 18 and 69 and have ever been sexually active, you need to have a Pap test every two years.

It is important that you have regular Pap tests (commonly referred to as Pap smear or Pap smear test), even if you’re well.

If you’ve ever been sexually active, you need to have regular Pap tests, even if:

  • You are a well women and have no history or symptoms
  • you’ve received the cervical cancer vaccine. The vaccine protects you against the most common types of HPV that cause cervical cancer, but not all of them.
  • you no longer have sex. The most common type of cervical cancer usually takes up to 10 years to develop, so even if you are no longer having sex, you need to continue having a Pap test every two years until your doctor advises it’s no longer necessary
  • you are pregnant
  • you are gay, lesbian or bisexual. HPV infection is transmitted through direct sexual skin-to-skin contact. For more information, read our brochure ‘Lesbians need Pap tests too!’
  • you are a transgender man (transsexuals who have changed their gender from female to male) who still has an intact cervix
  • you’ve only had one sexual partner
  • you’ve been through menopause.

If you are older than 69 years and have had two normal Pap test results in the past five years, your doctor will advise you whether you still need to have Pap tests.

Your doctor may recommend more frequent Pap tests if a previous test showed significant cell changes or you experience problems such as pain or bleeding after sex.

Your doctor can also explain whether you need to have Pap tests if you’ve had a hysterectomy, as it will depend on your personal circumstances.

Pap tests are for healthy women. Even if you are healthy and have no symptoms you still need two-yearly Pap tests, which reduce the risk of being diagnosed with cervical cancer by 96%.

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