How Do You Screen For Cervical Cancer?

There are two predominant tests available to screen for cervical cancer. Both tests can be administered in a doctor's office or in a clinic. 

 

The two screening tests most often used are:

  • The PAP test - also referred to as a Pap smear, looks for precancerous cells. These are cell changes on the cervix that may lead to cervical cancer

  • The HPV test - this test looks for the presence of the HPV (human papillomavirus) which can lead to cell changes in the cervix

There are guidelines published for when to get screened for cervical cancer. 

21 - 29 Years Old: You should start getting PAP test at the age of 21. If your test is normal your doctor may tell you that you can wait three years until your next PAP test.

30 - 65 Years Old: Your doctor may offer you one of three options in this age range.

  • PAP test only - If test results are normal you doctor may tell you that you can wait three years until your next PAP test

  • HPV test only - if test results are normal your doctor may tell you that you can wait five years until your next screening

  • HPV test AND PAP test - this is actually called co-testing. If BOTH test results are normal your doctor may tell you that you can wait five years until your next screening

Over 65 Years Old: If you are over the age of 65 your doctor may not recommend testing IF:

  • you have had normal test results for several years, or

  • you have had your cervix removed as part of a total hysterectomy for non-cancerous conditions

 

Regardless of the test you get, PAP test or HPV test, it is important to get regular screenings. It is also important to note that even if you choose to receive the HPV vaccine you should follow the guidelines for regular screenings.