JOPLIN, MO -- Gynecologist with Freeman Health System Dr. Tyrone Adcock says the PAP test is critical in diagnosing early types of Cervical cancer. "Pre-Cancerous changes. That's the main reason that we have the test." Adcock explains. "We're also looking for H.P.V., which is a kind of virus that's responsible for most cases of Cervical cancer."
Adcock says age is one of the determining factors of how often a woman should have the test. "When we look at women who are under the age of 21, American College of OBGYN guidelines currently are that a woman should have a pap smear." But Adcock explains the test is used to find other problems. "Including cultures for Chlamydia, and Gonorrhea, and even H.I.V. testing, if she's sexually active"
But women who are in the 21 to 30 age group are at the highest risk. "It's in this age group that most cervical cancers are diagnosed." Adcock explains. "The recommendation is for yearly PAP smears during that decade."
And women who are beyond 30 years old, could take the test less often Adcock says. "If there's a clean health history, than these woman can begin having PAP smears at every 2 or 3 year intervals, they do not have to do it yearly."
However, doctors say woman of all ages still need to schedule an annual pelvic exam.