The cervix is the lower part of the uterus, the place where a baby grows during pregnancy. Cancer screening is looking for cancer before you have any symptoms. Cancer found early may be easier to treat.
Cervical cancer screening is usually part of a woman's health checkup. There are two types of tests: the Pap test and the HPV test. For both, the doctor or nurse collects cells from the surface of the cervix. With the Pap test, the lab checks the sample for cancer cells or abnormal cells that could become cancer later. With the HPV test, the lab checks for HPV infection. HPV is a virus that spreads through sexual contact. It can sometimes lead to cancer. If your screening tests are abnormal, your doctor may do more tests, such as a biopsy.
Cervical cancer screening has risks. The results can sometimes be wrong, and you may have unnecessary follow-up tests. There are also benefits. Screening has been shown to decrease the number of deaths from cervical cancer. You and your doctor should discuss your risk for cervical cancer, the pros and cons of the screening tests, at what age to start being screened, and how often to be screened.
- Cervical Cancer Screening (American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists) - PDF Also in Spanish
- Cervical Cancer Screening (National Cancer Institute) Also in Spanish
- Get Tested for Cervical Cancer (Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion)
- New Guidelines for Cervical Cancer Screening (American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists) - PDF
- Prevent Cervical Cancer (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) Also in Spanish
- Understanding Cervical Changes: A Health Guide for Women (National Cancer Institute) Also in Spanish
- What Should I Know about Screening? (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) Also in Spanish
- Need Cancer Screening? Where You Work Matters (10/13/2017, HealthDay)
- HPV Test Alone OK for Cervical Cancer Screening Over 30: Expert Panel (09/12/2017, HealthDay)
- Abnormal Cervical Cancer Screening Test Results (American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists) - PDF
- How to Interpret Abnormal Pap Smear Results (American Academy of Family Physicians) Also in Spanish
- HPV Test (American Association for Clinical Chemistry)
- Pap and HPV Testing (National Cancer Institute) Also in Spanish
- Pap Smear (National Library of Medicine) Also in Spanish
- Screening for Cervical Cancer (U.S. Preventive Services Task Force) - PDF
- Pap Test (National Cancer Institute)
Health Check Tools
- Your Cervical Cancer Risk (Siteman Cancer Center)
- ClinicalTrials.gov: Human Papillomavirus DNA Tests (National Institutes of Health)
- ClinicalTrials.gov: Papanicolaou Test (National Institutes of Health)
- ClinicalTrials.gov: Vaginal Smears (National Institutes of Health)
Journal Articles References and abstracts from MEDLINE/PubMed (National Library of Medicine)
- Article: Effect of cervical cancer education and provider recommendation for screening...
- Article: Screening Women at High Risk for Cervical Cancer: Special Groups...
- Article: The Bethesda System for Reporting Cervical Cytology: A Historical Perspective.
- Cervical Cancer Screening -- see more articles
Find an Expert
- American Cancer Society
- Find a Cancer Doctor (American Society of Clinical Oncology)
- National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program (NBCCEDP): Find a Screening Provider Near You (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
- National Cancer Institute Also in Spanish