HPV in Women
Pap Smear Guidelines
A woman should begin getting Pap tests every one to three years if she has been sexually active or is older than age 21. Talk to your healthcare provider about when and how often to get a Pap test.
If a woman is older than 65 years and has had normal Pap tests and is not at risk for cervical cancer, she may be able to stop getting Pap tests. Talk to your healthcare provider about what is best for you.
If a woman has had a total hysterectomy (removal of the uterus and cervix), she does not need to get a Pap test if the hysterectomy was done for a noncancerous condition.
Some experts disagree on how often women need Pap tests. Talk to your healthcare provider to find out when you should begin testing, how often you should be tested, and when you can stop.
Abnormal Pap Tests
If a woman's Pap test doesn't come back as normal, the healthcare provider may tell her that she has an "abnormal" Pap test. An abnormal result does not necessarily mean that she has HPV or cervical cancer. There could be many reasons for an abnormal Pap test result, such as a yeast infection, irritation, or hormonal changes.
If a woman's Pap test is abnormal, her healthcare provider may repeat the Pap test, perform an HPV DNA test, have a follow-up exam later, or do the any of the following tests:
- Colposcopy: A device is used to look closely at the cervix to get a better look at the abnormal areas.
- Schiller test: This test involves coating the cervix with an iodine solution. Healthy cells turn brown, and abnormal cells turn white or yellow.
- Biopsy: A small amount of cervical tissue is removed and looked at under a microscope to figure out if abnormal cells are cancerous.