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.
- CDC Vital Signs: Cervical Cancer is Preventable (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) Also in Spanish
- 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)
- 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
- Screening, HPV Vaccine Can Prevent Cervical Cancer: FDA (02/08/2017, HealthDay)
- Improving Your Odds for Cervical Health (01/26/2017, Food and Drug Administration)
- HPV Vaccine Doesn't Eliminate Need for Pap Test (01/24/2017, 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 (American Association for Clinical Chemistry)
- Screening for Cervical Cancer (U.S. Preventive Services Task Force) - PDF
- Pap Test (National Cancer Institute)
- 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)