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 (National Cancer Institute) Also in Spanish
- Get Screened for Cervical Cancer (Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion) Also in Spanish
- Next Steps after an Abnormal Cervical Cancer Screening Test: Understanding HPV and Pap Test Results (National Cancer Institute) Also in Spanish
- What Should I Know about Screening? (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) Also in Spanish
- Pap Smear: Do I Need One If I'm a Virgin? (Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research) Also in Spanish
- Pap Smear: Still Needed after Hysterectomy? (Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research) Also in Spanish
- Risks of Cervical Cancer Screening (National Cancer Institute) Also in Spanish
- Colposcopy (National Library of Medicine) Also in Spanish
- How to Interpret Abnormal Pap Smear Results (American Academy of Family Physicians)
- Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Test (National Library of Medicine) Also in Spanish
- 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)
Statistics and Research
- FastStats: Pap Tests (National Center for Health Statistics)
- 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: Merits and pitfalls of normal saline rehydrated air-dried cervical smears over...
- Article: Comparative accuracy of cervical cancer screening strategies in healthy asymptomatic women:...
- Article: Evaluation of PathTezt™, a Liquid-Based Cytology System.
- 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