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.
Some women also get a human papillomavirus (HPV) test at the same time as a Pap test. Even if you've already had the HPV vaccine, you still need Pap tests 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 HPV vaccine.
These recommendations apply to women who have never had a serious abnormal Pap test result. If you don't know whether you have ever had such a result, talk to your doctor about how often you should be tested.
Women in this age group should be tested every 3 to 5 years. Talk with your doctor about what's right for you.
Women in this age group may no longer need Pap tests. Talk with your doctor about what's right for you.
A hysterectomy is surgery in which the entire uterus is removed, usually including the cervix. Sometimes the cervix is not removed. You and your doctor can decide on the appropriate screening interval based on your medical history.
If you don't know for sure whether you still have your cervix, talk to your doctor.
After any abnormal Pap test, your doctor will recommend follow-up to monitor the cell changes.
Experts agree that some women may need to be tested more often if they:
For more information, see the topic Pap Test.
- American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (2009). Cervical cytology screening. ACOG Practice Bulletin No. 109. Obstetrics and Gynecology, 114: 1409–1420.
- U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (2012). Screening for cervical cancer: Summary of recommendations. Available online: http://www.uspreventiveservicestaskforce.org/uspstf/uspscerv.htm.
- American Cancer Society (2012). Cervical cancer: Prevention and early detection. Available online: http://www.cancer.org/acs/groups/cid/documents/webcontent/003167-pdf.pdf.
|Primary Medical Reviewer||Sarah Marshall, MD - Family Medicine|
|Specialist Medical Reviewer||Kirtly Jones, MD - Obstetrics and Gynecology|
|Last Revised||May 4, 2012|
Last Revised: May 4, 2012
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