Have You Been Screened for Cervical Cancer?
As a woman, it’s important to stay on top of your health. And that includes guarding against cervical cancer. Screening can not only catch the cancer in its earliest, most-treatable stages, but also prevent the disease by detecting abnormal cells before they can turn into cancer.
What Is Cervical Cancer?
Sometimes, healthy cells on the surface of the cervix—a passage that connects the uterus to the vagina—can change. And over time, these abnormal cells have the potential to become cancerous.
Who’s At Risk?
Any woman can develop cervical cancer. Factors that increase the risk include:
- Human papillomavirus virus (HPV)
- A lowered immune system
- Genital herpes
What Tests Are Used for Screening?
There are two main tests used to screen for cervical cancer:
- The Pap test can identify early changes in cells that can lead to cervical cancer. A sample of cells are collected from the cervix for testing.
- The HPV test looks for certain strains of HPV that have been linked to cervical cancer. It’s performed by testing a sample of cells from the cervix. The HPV test can be performed by itself—known as a primary HPV test—or using the same cell sample collected for a Pap test.
What Do Screening Guidelines Say?
Screening guidelines can vary somewhat depending on a woman’s health, risk factors, and medical history. In general, the American Cancer Society recommends:
- Women should begin cervical cancer screening at age 25. Between ages 25–65, women should have a primary HPV test every five years.
- If primary HPV testing is not available, screening may be done with either a co-test (Pap test combined with an HPV test) every five years or a Pap test alone every three years.
- Women older than age 65 who have had normal test results for the past 10 years and are not at high risk for cervical cancer should stop screening.
Personalize Your Prevention
Keep in mind that women at higher risk for cervical cancer may need to be tested earlier and more often. Together with an OB-GYN or primary care doctor, discuss when and how you should be screened.