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Cervical Cancer Screening

Summary

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.

Start Here

  • Cervical Cancer Screening From the National Institutes of Health (National Cancer Institute) Also in Spanish
  • Get Screened for Cervical Cancer Easy-to-Read (Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion) Also in Spanish
  • HPV and Pap Test Results: Next Steps after an Abnormal Cervical Cancer Screening Test From the National Institutes of Health (National Cancer Institute) Also in Spanish
  • What Should I Know about Screening? (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) Also in Spanish

Related Issues

  • I Had a Hysterectomy. Do I Still Need to See My Ob-Gyn? Do I Still Need Pap Tests? (American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists)
  • Pap Smear: Do I Need One If I'm a Virgin? (Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research) Also in Spanish

Specifics

  • Colposcopy From the National Institutes of Health (National Library of Medicine) Also in Spanish
  • How to Interpret Abnormal Cervical Cancer Screening Results (American Academy of Family Physicians) Also in Spanish
  • Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Test From the National Institutes of Health (National Library of Medicine) Also in Spanish
  • Pap Smear From the National Institutes of Health (National Library of Medicine) Also in Spanish
  • Screening for Cervical Cancer (U.S. Preventive Services Task Force) - PDF

Images

  • Pap Test From the National Institutes of Health (National Cancer Institute)

Statistics and Research

  • FastStats: Pap Tests (National Center for Health Statistics)
  • Some Older Women Are Not Getting Recommended Cervical Cancer Screenings (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

Clinical Trials

  • ClinicalTrials.gov: Human Papillomavirus DNA Tests From the National Institutes of Health (National Institutes of Health)
  • ClinicalTrials.gov: Papanicolaou Test From the National Institutes of Health (National Institutes of Health)
  • ClinicalTrials.gov: Vaginal Smears From the National Institutes of Health (National Institutes of Health)

Journal Articles References and abstracts from MEDLINE/PubMed (National Library of Medicine)

  • Article: Self-sampling HPV DNA test for cervical cancer screening in Singapore: A...
  • 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:...
  • Cervical Cancer Screening -- see more articles

Reference Desk

  • Dictionary of Cancer Terms From the National Institutes of Health (National Cancer Institute) Also in Spanish

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 From the National Institutes of Health Also in Spanish

Teenagers

  • Pap Smears (Nemours Foundation) Also in Spanish

Patient Handouts

The information on this site should not be used as a substitute for professional medical care or advice. Contact a health care provider if you have questions about your health.

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