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When Do You Need a Pap Test?

female repro system jpeg.JPGWhat is Pap test?

  • A Pap test screens for cervical cancer.
  • Cervical cancer can be treated and cured if found early.
  • The human papillomavirus (HPV) is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) that can cause cervical cancer

A Pap test does NOT screen for sexually transmitted infections

  • If you are sexually active and under the age of 25 or at increased risk, you should be screened yearly for chlamydia, HIV, and other STIs. If you are not sure about your risk level, you should ask your health care provider.
  • Regardless of whether you are at increased risk for STIs, if you are using hormonal birth control, you should see your provider every year for a check-up.

When do you need a Pap test?

These guidelines apply to anyone with a cervix, regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation.  Your provider may advise you to have more frequent screenings based on your medical history.

Under 21

  • No Pap test screening is needed. 

Ages 21-29

  • Pap test every three years.

Ages 30-65

  • Pap test every three years or, for those who want to be screened less frequently, Pap and HPV testing every 5 years.

Any age

  • If you have ever been treated for cancerous or pre-cancerous cervical cells (moderate or severe dysplasia of the cervix), you should have regular Pap tests at intervals recommended by your health care provider.
  • If you are HIV positive you should have a Pap test every six months for a year after diagnosis and then every year.
  • If you have a suppressed immune system you should have a Pap yearly.
  • If you have been diagnosed with mild dysplasia, follow the recommendations of your health care provider.

Getting help

Contact Hall Health to schedule an appointment for a Pap test.

If you have any questions and are a UW student or established Hall Health patient, you may call one of our Consulting Nurses for further information.


Authored by: Hall Health Center Women's Health Clinic staff

Reviewed by: Hall Health Center Women's Health Clinic staff, January 2014