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Cervical Cancer Screening

Overview

The cervix is the lower part of the uterus that opens into the vagina. Cervical cancer screening helps prevent cervical cancer.

Two tests can be used to screen for cervical cancer. They may be used alone or together.

A Pap test.

This test looks for changes in the cells of the cervix. Some of these cell changes could lead to cancer.

A human papillomavirus (HPV) test.

This test looks for the HPV virus. Some high-risk types of HPV can cause cell changes that could lead to cervical cancer.

Who should be screened?

If you have a cervix, you may need cervical cancer screening. This depends on your age, your risk of cervical cancer, and results from previous tests.footnote 1 Screening recommendations may be different in your area.

Younger than 25

Routine screenings are not recommended.

Ages 25 to 69

Screening is recommended every 3 years.

Ages 70 and older

If you have had 3 negative Pap tests results in a row in the last 10 years, screening is no longer needed. If you haven't had regular screenings, continue getting tested until you have 3 negative test results.

If you had a hysterectomy

Talk to your doctor. Depending on your health history, you may not need screening.

What do the results mean?

Your test results may be normal. Or the results may show minor or serious changes to the cells on your cervix. Minor changes may go away on their own, especially if you are younger than 30.

You may have an abnormal test because you have an infection of the vagina or cervix or because you have low estrogen levels after menopause that are causing the cells to change.

If you have a high-risk type of human papillomavirus (HPV) or cell changes that could turn into cancer, you may need more tests. Your doctor may suggest that you wait to be retested. Or you may need to have a colposcopy or treatment right away.

Your doctor will recommend a follow-up plan based on your results and your age.

References

Citations

  1. Canadian Task Force on Preventive Health Care (2013). Recommendations on screening for cervical cancer. Canadian Medical Association Journal, v185(1): 35-45. Also available online: http://canadiantaskforce.ca/guidelines/screening-for-cervical-cancer.

Credits

Current as of: October 25, 2023

Author: Healthwise Staff
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