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Pap Test for Adolescents

In the past, a Pap test to screen for cervical cancer was recommended for adolescents after they had been sexually active for three years, or at age 21, whichever came first. But the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists now recommends that all women have their first screening at age 21. Sexually active adolescents are at high risk for infection with the human papillomavirus (HPV), the virus that causes most cervical cancers, but research has shown that their bodies are able to clear the virus within one to two years. Even though adolecents may have precancerous cervical lesions from HPV, these usually go away on their own. By delaying a first Pap test until age 21, teen girls can avoid unnecessary invasive procedures to treat HPV precancers. Women between the ages of 21 and 30 should have a Pap test every two years.

It is recommended that adolescents receive the HPV vaccination. This vaccine is highly effective in protecting women from the types of HPV that can cause cervical cancer. The vaccine should be given before an adolescent has become sexually active.

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Online Resources of Adolescent Medicine