Doc, I’m older. Do I still need a Pap test?

Know when to get this important test.


Dear doctor, 

I’ve been happily married to the same man for over 30 years. I’ve had Pap tests in the past, but I don’t know if I need them anymore. I’ve also heard about the HPV test. Do I need it, too?




Dear Tina,

Congratulations on having a long, happy marriage. Healthy relationships are just as important to our health as regular checkups. 

I’m glad to hear that you’ve had Pap screenings throughout your life. They’re an important screening tool for cancer at any age.


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Make an appointment now. 

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Here are a few facts from The Office on Women’s Health to help answer your questions. 

  • You still need regular Pap tests, even if: 
    • You’re not sexually active
    • You’ve had the same sexual partner for decades
    • You’ve gotten the HPV vaccine 
    • You’ve gone through menopause
  • Women ages 30‒65 should get:
    • A Pap test every three years OR 
    • An HPV test every five years OR 
    • A Pap and HPV test together every five years 
  • Have you had a hysterectomy? (This is a surgery to remove a woman’s uterus, also known as the womb.) You may still need regular Pap tests to screen for cervical cancer. (The cervix is the lower part of the womb.)
  • HPV is common in women under 30. It usually goes away on its own. If it doesn’t, it can lead to cervical cancer. 
  • HPV may not go away on its own if you have a weak immune system.
  • Pap tests can find unhealthy cervical cells before they become cancer. Removing those cells can save nine out of 10 women from getting cervical cancer.

So as you can see, Tina, routine screenings are important for women of most ages. 

Take care of yourself so you can stay healthy and enjoy many more anniversaries. Be sure to keep getting regular Pap and HPV tests.

In good health, 

Joshua Jacobs, MD, FAAFP
National Medical Director, Provider Intelligence
Clinical Performance, Optum Care 


Will Medicare cover cervical and vaginal cancer screenings?


Medicare says: “Medicare covers these tests once every 24 months. Part B also covers HPV tests (as part of Pap tests) once every five years. You pay nothing for the lab Pap and the lab HPV with Pap test if your doctor accepts Medicare.”


The information provided is for general informational purposes only and is not intended to be medical advice or a substitute for professional health care. You should consult an appropriate health care professional for your specific needs.