Cervical cancer is one cancer that may be detected early with regular screening. Screening can prevent cervical cancer by finding abnormal (precancerous) changes in the cells of the cervix so that they can be treated before they become cancerous. When cervical cancer is detected early, it can be treated successfully.

Risk factors that may increase a woman’s chance of having cervical cancer include:

  • Human papilloma virus infection
  • Smoking
  • HIV/AIDS
  • Chlamydia infection
  • Being overweight
  • Multiple full-term pregnancies
  • Young age at the first full-term pregnancy
  • Family history of cervical cancer

Also, there are many women who exhibit no risks and still may develop cervical cancer. Therefore, it is recommended that every woman should have regularly scheduled Pap tests.

Pap Test

The Papanicolaou test or Pap test (also called Pap smear, cervical smear, or smear test), is a screening test that detects abnormal, precancerous and cancer cells in the cervix. If cervical cancer is caught early, patients are more likely to be treated and survive the disease. Patients who have an abnormal Pap test require additional diagnostic tests, including colposcopy and biopsy.

Who Should Have a Pap Test?

Based on the recommendations of the American Cancer Society:

  • Pap tests should occur every three years, starting at the age of 21. HPV testing is only necessary if a woman has an abnormal Pap result.
  • Those who received the HPV vaccine should follow the screening guidelines for their age group.
  • From age 30 to 65, women should have Pap tests every three to five years, based upon their doctor recommendations.
  • Women over the age of 65, and have previously been diagnosed with precancerous cervical cells, should continue screening.
  • Individuals with a HIV infection, organ transplant, or exposure to prescription drug DES, diethylstilbestrol, may need more frequent Pap screenings. The patient should talk with her healthcare provider for further the appropriate screening plan.
  • Some women can stop having Pap screenings. This would include women who:
  • had their uterus and cervix removed in a hysterectomy and have no history of cervical cancer or pre-cancer should not be screened.
  • are 65 years and older who received regular Pap screenings and had normal results.

Other Resources

For additional information on cervical cancer and cervical cancer screening, visit the American Cancer Society website.