Do Women Over 65 Still Need Pap Smears?

Most doctors agree that there is little to no benefit of annual screening for cervical cancer in low-risk women over 65 years old, with a recent prior history of negative Pap smears or recent prior history of no precancerous lesions/cervical cancer.

So if you are over 65 without a significant history as above, there really is no need for you to continue to be screened for cervical cancer via a pap smear.

There are some important considerations to be aware of though:

  • The new guidelines refer to routine screening. Pap tests performed for the purposes of diagnosis in the face of symptoms or problems should still be performed.
  • Pap tests should only be discontinued if you have had a least three normal tests over the past ten years. If not, the tests should still be performed.
  • You should always talk to your medical provider if you experience any gynecological or urological problem such as bleeding, discharge, incontinence or pain. Pelvic exams are still important.

A key reason to discontinue pap tests in women meeting the criteria is because cervical cancer is a slow-growing cancer and the risk/benefit equation of cancer testing changes as women age. The new guidelines have been agreed on by the American Cancer Society, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. However, it’s always best to talk to your gynecologist or other medical provider to discuss whether a screening test, such as a Pap test, is right for you.

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