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When Should I Have My First Pap Smear?


Updated May 07, 2014

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Question: When Should I Have My First Pap Smear?
I am 19 and have never had a Pap smear. Should I have my first pap smear done?
Answer: In 2009, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) revised their recommended cervical cancer screening schedule for women. It recommends that:

  • Women should have their first Pap smear at age 21. Old guidelines recommended women have their first Pap three years after they become sexually active or at age 21 -- whichever came first.
  • Women in their 20s should have a Pap smear every two years (revised from previous recommendations that it to be done annually).
  • Women in their 30s who have had three consecutive normal Pap smears should undergo one screening every three years.
  • Women 65 to 70 who have have had three consecutive normal Pap smear results and no abnormal findings in the previous 10 years can discontinue screenings altogether if they choose.
  • Women who have undergone a total hysterectomy due to a noncancerous condition and have not had previously abnormal Pap smears can also discontinue screenings.

The American Cancer Society's (ACS) recommendations vary somewhat for women having their first Pap smear. The organization recommends having your first Pap smear about three years after becoming sexually active or by age 21, whichever comes first. They also recommend having a liquid based Pap test every two years throughout your 20s, unless results are abnormal.

Both ACOG and ACS recommend that a woman should have a Pap smear by age 21. ACOG and ACS are both highly esteemed, trusted organizations. If you are unsure of which guidelines to follow, talk to your doctor. He or she can make the best assessment of when you should start having Pap smears based on your personal health and sexual history.

Remember that regardless of how often you have a Pap smear, you still need to have an annual pelvic exam.


American Cancer Society. Cervical Cancer: Prevention and Early Detection. 10/28/2009. Accessed 11/2009.


American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. New ACOG Cervical Cancer Screening Recommendations. November 20, 2009.[br[ http://www.acog.org/departments/dept_notice.cfm?recno=20&bulletin=5021

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