Health Topics

Pap Test and Menopause

A Pap smear is a test used to look for changes in the cells of the cervix that show cervical cancer or conditions that may develop into cancer.

All women who are or have been sexually active and have reached the age of 21, should have an annual Pap smear. It is the best tool to detect pre-cancerous conditions and screen for HPV that may lead to invasive cervical cancer. The timely detection of pre-invasive cancerous lesions via a pap smear promises a cure to cervical cancer.

Do I still need a pap smear now that I am menopausal?

The current guidelines recommend that it is reasonable to stop screening at age 65 to 70, for women who have had adequate recent screening with normal Pap smears and are not otherwise at high risk.

How often should I get a pap smear now that I am menopausal?

It is recommended that after three consecutive normal Pap tests and in the absence of high risk factors, the frequency of cervical screening can be reduced to every 3 years. High risk factors include:

  • HIV infection
  • Immunosuppression
  • In utero DES exposure
  • Previous history of cervical cancer

Do I need to get pap smears if I have had a hysterectomy?

For the women who have undergone hysterectomy for non-cancerous conditions the cervical screening can be safely discontinued. However, if there is a history of HIV, exposure to DES in utero, cervical cancer or uterine cancer screening is continued.

What symptoms should I watch for between pap smears?

Pre-cancerous conditions of the cervix seldom cause symptoms. For problems to be detected, a pelvic examination and a Pap smear are usually required.

When cancer is present in the cervix, the most common symptom is abnormal bleeding. Bleeding may start and stop between regular menstrual periods, or it may occur after sexual intercourse. Abnormal vaginal discharge is another symptom. Pain is NOT an early warning sign of the disease. These symptoms are not confirmed signs of cancer; but, be sure to see your doctor if any of these symptoms last longer than 2 weeks.