There are about 13,000 new cases of cervical cancer every year in the US, with the most common cause being the Human Papillomavirus (HPV). Screening tests such as HPV testing and Pap smears are essential for the early detection and prevention of cervical cancer.
However, these tests can be costly, especially if your doctor detects any abnormalities during the test and you don’t have insurance. If this is the case, they’ll follow up with more diagnostic procedures and interventions, which could quickly add to the initial cost.
So, how much does a Pap test cost without insurance? This article highlights the cost of a Pap smear, what affects the cost, and where to find affordable services.
What Is A Pap Smear?
A Pap smear or Pap test is a method of cervical screening. During a Pap test, the doctor collects cells from your cervix and checks them for abnormal changes, such as cancerous or precancerous cells.
Pap smears are a critical part of preventive care and can help detect cancer in the early stages when it’s easy to treat.
The Cost Of A Pap Smear Without Insurance
As with most procedures, the prices of Pap smears without insurance vary. You could pay up to $150 without insurance.
However, this price does not include the cost of a pelvic exam. A Pap smear with a pelvic exam costs a little more, with a national average of $316.
What Affects The Cost Of A Pap Smear?
A pap smear may include additional lab tests and procedures. Often, these are billed separately, affecting the cost of the entire process. Even if you’re getting a Pap smear with insurance, the doctor might order tests that your insurance may not cover.
Let’s look at a few factors that affect the cost of getting a Pap smear.
If your doctor identifies any anomalies in your cervical cells during the Pap smear, they might order additional lab tests. These tests help to determine if the cells are cancerous, and the type of treatment or intervention you need. The cost of lab testing varies depending on the procedure your doctor orders.
For instance, a colposcopy, which involves looking at abnormal cells in your cervix with a magnifying instrument, can cost up to $500 without insurance. However, this cost might increase if your doctor orders a colposcopy with a biopsy. A colposcopy with a biopsy costs up to $727.
Since there is no national regulation on the cost of healthcare services, your location can affect how much you pay for the test. Prices in rural and urban areas vary. You may pay more in urban areas because of overhead costs like rent and staff salaries.
For example, a Pap smear may cost around $39 in Maine, $65 in New York, and $125 in Florida.
First And Follow-up Visits
Your first visit to an OB/GYN for a Pap test might cost up to $447. The national average cost is around $371. That being said, one visit to your OB/GYN may not be enough to complete the entire testing process.
Depending on the results of your Pap smear, you might need to visit your doctor more frequently for follow-up visits. These visits could cost anywhere from $50 and above, depending on the tests your doctor orders or the treatment they recommend.
Where You Receive The Test
If you go to a private OB/GYN, you’ll pay more for the test than if you visit a local health department or community clinic.
Health departments and community clinics are usually funded by government grants. As such, they can offer lower prices for services.
Planned Parenthood, for instance, accepts sliding scale payments, which means that if you have a low income, you will pay less for cancer screening services.
Getting A Pap Smear For Less When You Don’t Have Insurance
If you don’t have insurance, you should still get regular Paps to help detect cervical cancer early on. Here are a few places you can get a Pap smear affordably:
Government Sponsored Programs
Government-sponsored programs provide free and inexpensive cervical cancer screening services to eligible women. An example is the National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program (NBCCEDP).
You are eligible to get a Pap test from this program without insurance if:
- You are 21-64 years old
- Your annual income is more than 250% below the federal poverty line
- Your insurance doesn’t cover screening
The (NBCCEDP) also considers case-by-case circumstances. So, you might be eligible for screening even if you don’t meet some of these criteria.
To find an (NBCCEDP) near you, you can visit the Centers for Disease Control.
Community Clinics/Low-cost And Free Pap Smear Clinics
Most community clinics offer free and inexpensive services for the local population. Some may have sliding-scale payment plans that can fit your budget.
In addition, some women’s clinics often offer free cancer screening campaigns, especially in January, which is Cervical Health Awareness Month.
Local county health departments also offer inexpensive Pap tests for the uninsured and the under-insured through Planned Parenthood clinics.
Frequently Asked Questions About Pap Smears
How often should I get a Pap smear?
According to the CDC, the frequency of getting a Pap test depends on how old you are.
|21-29 years||You should get your first Pap smear in this age range. After your first test, your doctor will likely recommend that you get one every three years.|
|30-65 years||Go for a Pap after every three years. You can choose to accompany it with an HPV test. If you go for a Pap and HPV test, you should do it every five years.|
|65 years and older||You might not require screening anymore If you’ve been getting regular Pap tests for the last ten years and the results have been normal three times consecutively. |
However, you should consult your doctor to confirm you don’t fall under the high-risk category of women before you stop regular screening.
Women at high risk, including those with a history of precancerous lesions or cancer, may need to continue getting screened after 65.
How should I prepare for a Pap smear?
You don’t need to do much to prepare for a Pap smear. However, there are some things doctors advise avoiding including:
- Penetrative and oral sex for up to 48 hours before going for the test
- Creams or gels that you apply around or inside the vagina
What should I expect during a Pap smear?
At the OB/GYN’s office or clinic, your healthcare provider will insert a speculum into the vagina and examine the cervical area. The doctor will then gently wipe (swab) inside your cervix to collect samples of cells and send them to the lab for testing.
This process might cause slight discomfort, but it shouldn’t be painful. If you feel pain, let your healthcare provider know.
The lab tests might show that your cells require further testing. In this case, your doctor may recommend a colposcopy or biopsy. A colposcopy or biopsy will determine if the cells are cancerous and, in turn, the type of treatment you need.
How long does it take to get the results of a Pap smear?
This depends on the lab. Some can get the results back to you within a few days while others can take up to three weeks.
There are several possible findings from cervical cancer screening including:
- Normal/negative: This means that the cells in your cervix are normal.
- Unequivocal/unclear: This indicates the test was inconclusive and didn’t show if your cells are normal or not. In this case, the doctor will order more testing or ask you to come back for another Pap test in a few months.
- Abnormal/positive: This means that your cells look abnormal. Abnormal cells are not always a sign of cancer. More testing is necessary to determine if the cells are cancerous.
If you’re between the ages of 21 and 65, getting regular Pap smears is essential for early detection of cancer. That said, getting a Pap smear without insurance can be quite expensive. That’s why it’s important to find the best insurance coverage before going for screening.
At Enhance Health, we help people find the best insurance for their needs. We’ll work with you throughout the process and offer advice on the best insurance coverage options so you can make the best decision.