Most of us have self-consciously slipped our bare feet into the metal contraptions on the gynecologist’s examining table, year in and year out, for our annual PAP smears. At last, we don’t have to go through this female ritual quite so often. Read on to find out why, and to learn what other female-specific medical tests we need to do, and how often.
FabOverFifty got the lowdown from one of our favorite doctors, Alyssa Dweck, who specializes in treating menopausal and postmenopausal women.
1. PAP SMEARS
“This is all the rage right now in regards to changes in guidelines. The Pap smear can now be done as infrequently as every three to five years in women 30 and older who’ve had normal Pap smears for a while. The test for Human Papillomavirus (HPV is a sexually transmitted virus that can lead to cervical cancer) is performed simultaneously. Most women over 65 years old no longer need Pap smears since the risk for cervical cancer is quite low for women in this demographic.
“This is a big mindset change since we were brought up thinking we needed a yearly Pap smear. Newer screening guidelines suggest no disadvantage to decreasing the testing frequency. Of course, doctors still will use their best medical judgment to determine if a particular woman should have a PAP smear more frequently. Let’s say you’re 56, for example, and stopped getting your period a while ago, but you bleed every time you have sex. This could be the result of a cervical problem, among other issues, and an up-to-date Pap smear would be indicated. Keep in mind, a yearly preventative gyn exam still is recommended, with or without a screening Pap smear.”