Lesley from Urraween, Queensland, Australia asked:

Do women stop having routine Pap smears and mammograms at the age of 70?

Woman having a mammogram

Does this mean women over 70 can't get cancer?

Our answer

All women aged between 18 and 70 who have ever been sexually active should have a Pap test every two years. The risk of cervical cancer increases with age, so it is important for women to continue cervical screening until they are at least 70. If women have two normal Pap test results in the five years before they turn 70, they can stop having Pap tests. While some women may choose to continue having Pap tests after 70, the risk of developing cervical cancer at this age (having had regular normal Pap tests to age 70) is minimal. Women who have not had regular Pap tests or have had abnormal results from recent Pap tests, may need to keep having Pap tests for a few more years. These women should ask their doctor or nurse for advice. Mammography, according to national screening recommendations, is most effective in the 50-69 year age group. For women 70 or older, continued participation in the BreastScreen Program should be discussed with their GP. There is recent evidence that mammography is more effective than previously thought in some women older than 69 (up to 74 years). Accordingly, Cancer Council has supported recommendations in an evaluation of the BreastScreen Program, that the target age group be extended to 74 years (as well as 45-49 year olds). Women in the 75 and over age group and their families are advised to discuss their individual concerns about breast screening with their GP, and an individual decision can be made based on broader quality of life concerns.

This page was last updated on: June 30, 2014

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