Chances are, you began receiving pap smears around the age of 21, and they have since become a routine part of your annual checkup for years. When you reach menopause, your body goes through several shifts and changes, but that doesn’t mean you should stop receiving important exams!
Why is a Pap Smear Important?
A pap smear is one of the most effective ways to detect abnormal, pre-cancerous tissue on the cervix. If left untreated, abnormal tissue can become cancerous quickly. Each year in the US, approximately 12,200 women will be diagnosed with cervical cancer and 4,210 will die from the disease. A pap smear can help detect the issue early so that it can be treated before it develops further.
Do I Need a Pap Test After 50?
The short and simple answer for most women is yes. For those over 50 who have just entered menopause, It is recommended that you receive a pap test once every three years. However, this is mostly if you have had normal pap smear results three years in a row and you have no history of a pre-cancerous pap smear result.
In What Circumstances Can I Stop Receiving the Exam?
Women who have had a total hysterectomy for a non-cancerous condition, or those who are at the age of 70 and have had no abnormal pap tests in the past ten years, may no longer need to receive the exam. It is important for women to continue to receive routine pelvic exams, however.
What Symptoms Should I Be Aware Of?
Between your exams, or if you have stopped receiving your exam, it is still important to be aware of certain symptoms. Make an appointment with your doctor if you notice any of the following:
- Abnormal bleeding. Especially if you’re postmenopausal, it is abnormal to experience vaginal bleeding of any sort.
- Vaginal discharge. Watery, pink and/or foul smelling discharge is not typical and could be an indication of an issue.
- Pelvic pain. Although pelvic pain is not a direct symptom of cervical cancer, it can be a warning sign of abnormal changes.