You can help prevent cervical cancer by getting regular screening tests (called Pap tests) and follow-up care. A Pap test (sometimes called a Pap smear) is done in a doctor’s office or clinic.
Most deaths from cervical cancer can be prevented if women get regular Pap tests. A Pap test can find abnormal (changed) cells before they turn into cancer. Pap tests can also find cervical cancer early, when it usually can be cured.
How often should I get screened (tested)?
How often you should get screened for cervical cancer depends on how old you are and which tests you get.
- If you are age 21 to 29, get a Pap test every 3 years.
- If you are age 30 to 65:
- Get screened every 3 years if you only have a Pap test.
- Get screened every 5 years if you have both a Pap test and an HPV test.
If you are age 66 or older, ask your doctor if cervical cancer screening is recommended for you.
What happens during a Pap test?
A Pap test takes about 2 to 5 minutes. It may feel uncomfortable, but a Pap test doesn’t hurt.
While you lie on the exam table, the doctor or nurse will put a medical tool (called a speculum) into your vagina and open it to see your cervix. The doctor or nurse will use a special brush to collect a few cells from your cervix. These cells are sent to a lab to be checked by an expert.
The doctor or nurse will also do a pelvic exam to check your uterus, ovaries, and other organs.
What is cervical cancer?
Cervical cancer is cancer of the cervix, which is the lower, narrow part of the uterus (or womb).
Abnormal cells in the cervix can turn into cancer if they are not found early and treated. Cervical cancer is more common in women over age 30.
The cervix connects the uterus (or womb) to the vagina.
Learn more about cervical cancer and screening: