A Pap test, or Pap smear, is the most effective screening test for cervical cancer. It's often part of a pelvic exam. Regular testing can help your doctor find and treat abnormal cell changes on your cervix before they develop into cancer.
Women ages 30 to 64 are encouraged to get a human papillomavirus (HPV) test at the same time as a Pap test. The virus can cause cervical cancer and changes in the cervix that can lead to cancer. Certain types of HPV raise the risk of cervical cancer.1
Even if you've already had the HPV vaccine, you still need Pap tests. That's because the vaccine doesn't protect you from all types of HPV. Women who have had the HPV vaccine should follow the same Pap test schedule as women who have not had the vaccine.
Women should start having Pap tests at age 21.2, 1 If you are younger than 21 and are sexually active, it's still a good idea to have regular testing for sexually transmitted infections.
These guidelines apply to women who have never had a serious abnormal Pap test result. If you don't know if you have ever had such a result, talk with your doctor.
U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (2012). Screening for cervical cancer: Summary of recommendations. Available online: http://www.uspreventiveservicestaskforce.org/uspstf/uspscerv.htm.
American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
(2012). Screening for cervical cancer. ACOG Practice Bulletin
No. 131. Obstetrics and Gynecology, 120(5):
Other Works Consulted
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2013). Cervical Cancer Screening With the HPV Test and the Pap Test in Women Ages 30 and Older. Accessed Sept. 17, 2013: http://www.cdc.gov/cancer/hpv/pdf/HPV_Testing_2012_English.pdf.
ByHealthwise Staff Primary Medical ReviewerSarah Marshall, MD - Family Medicine Specialist Medical ReviewerKirtly Jones, MD - Obstetrics and Gynecology
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