Everything you need to know (and more) about the question “When should you get your first pap smear?”

As young women grow up, mature, they or their parents may begin to wonder about how to begin reproductive healthcare. “When should you get your first pap smear?” is such a common question asked by young women curious for themselves, or even parents wondering about their daughters. And we are here to answer that question and provide some more information about pap smears and overall reproductive health. 

If you or your daughter think it may be time for a pap smear and are in the Coral Springs, Florida area, schedule an appointment today with Dr. Lona Sasser Obstetrics & Gynecology. We are here to support you from conception to birth, from adolescence to menopause, and beyond.

So, when should you get your first pap smear?

It is generally practiced that Pap smears should start being done at the age of 21, per recommendations of The American Congress of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG) and the North American Society for Pediatric and Adolescent Gynecology (NASPAG). Pap smears should be performed every 3 years. 

At Dr. Lona Sasser Obstetrics & Gynecology, we offer Well Woman exams that include comprehensive testing of your reproductive system, and when necessary Pap smear.

This recommendation is based on how at risk the average young woman is to being exposed to sexually transmitted infections or HPV. If you believe you or a young woman in your life, younger than the age of 21, should get your first pap smear before this, you can speak to your health care provider or a gynecologist to see what the best course of action is.

Well, what is a Pap smear?

A Pap smear is an exam that detects the presence of cancerous cells on the cervix. The technical name, “cervical cytology”, refers to the process of looking at the cervical cells using a microscope. By examining the cells, doctors can screen to see if they find any “changes in the cells of the cervix that could lead to cancer.”

A Pap smear test is not the same thing as a pelvic exam, even though they are often performed at the same time. And, it is not uncommon that when folks look to answer their question of “when should you get your first pap smear?”, the difference is not all that clear.

What’s the difference between a Pap smear and a pelvic exam? 

Often, when searching when should you get your first Pap smear, the idea of a pelvic exam is actually the question at hand. While Paps are specific to testing for cervical cancer, pelvic exams check overall reproductive health. The accepted rule is that your first pelvic exam should happen at 21, or when you become sexually active or are having any other pain or discomfort associated with your menstrual cycle or reproductive system. Which for many young women, may mean a much younger age!

Generally, pelvic exams and Pap smears are exams that are a part of the overall practice of regularly checking women’s health. While Paps are not conducted every year, Well Woman exams are free, annual exams under the Affordable Care Act, and is an opportunity to be examined by your gynecologist, discuss anything that may be of concern to you, and request STI testing.

If you are wondering when you should get your first Pap smear and are unsure of what to do, do not hesitate to schedule an appointment online or by phone (954) 340-1050 with Dr. Sasser’s gynecology practice. We will be able to guide you to the right answer.

Photo by Eunice Lituañas on Unsplash

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