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 could be prevented by 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 do I need to get tested?
Women ages 21 to 29 need a Pap test every 3 years.
Women ages 30 to 65 need to get screened every 3 or 5 years, depending on how they are tested.
- If your doctor or nurse gives you just a Pap test, get screened every 3 years.
- If your doctor or nurse gives you a Pap test and an HPV test, get screened every 5 years.
If you are age 66 or older, ask your doctor if you need to get tested for cervical cancer.
What happens during a Pap test?
A Pap test lasts 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, opening it to see the cervix. She will use a special brush to collect a few cells from the 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 the uterus, ovaries, and other organs.
The cervix connects the uterus (or womb) to the vagina.
What is cervical cancer?
Cervical cancer is cancer of the uterine cervix, which is the lower, narrow part of the uterus (or womb). The cervix connects the uterus to the vagina.
Abnormal cells in the cervix can turn into cancer if they aren’t found early and treated. Cervical cancer is most common in women over age 30.
Learn more about cervical cancer and screening: