Authored by Revere Health

The Importance of Cervical Cancer Screening

April 19, 2018 | OB/GYNValue-Based Care

The American Cancer Society estimates that doctors will diagnose over 13,000 new cases of invasive cervical cancer in 2018.

Most cases of cervical cancer are caused by a sexually transmitted virus called human papillomavirus (HPV), but other factors increase your risk of cervical cancer including:

  • HIV
  • A history of smoking
  • Chlamydia
  • Being overweight
  • Long-term use of birth control pills or IUD use
  • Having multiple full-term pregnancies
  • Family history of cervical cancer

The good news is that as many as “93 percent of cervical cancers could be prevented by screening and HPV vaccination”.

Prevention through Pap tests

Regular screenings are key to preventing not only cervical cancer but also many other types of cancer. Cervical cancer is especially treatable when detected in its earlier stages through a screening called the Pap test (or Pap smear).

What is a Pap test?

A Pap test is simple, and your doctor can perform this test during a routine pelvic exam. To do so, your doctor will insert a device (called a speculum) through the vaginal canal to see your cervix. Then, using a special brush or stick, s/he will collect cells from the cervix to be examined in a lab.

How does it help prevent cervical cancer?

Regular Pap testing is the most important thing you can do to prevent cervical cancer. Pap tests detect precancerous cells in the cervix, which can be treated before cancer ever develops. In fact, most invasive cancers are found in women who have not had regular Pap testing.

How Often Should I Get a Pap Test?

Depending on your age and medical history, the frequency with which you should get a Pap test may differ. The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology recommends the following guidelines:

  • Women ages 21-29: every three years
  • Women ages 30-65: every five years in conjunction with an HPV test, or a Pap test alone every three years

Talk to your doctor about how often you should be screened.

Are There Exceptions?

Some women need to be screened more often. If you experience the following health conditions, you may want to talk to your doctor about more frequent screenings:

  • You have a weakened immune system—this can be caused by a number of reasons including having gone through chemotherapy, an organ transplant or steroid use
  • You have had previous treatment for abnormal cervical cells or cervical cancer
  • You are HIV-positive
  • Your mother was exposed to diethylstilbestrol (a synthetic hormone) while pregnant

You may not need regular Pap tests if you have had a hysterectomy with no residual cervix, and you can stop cervical cancer screening if you are over the age of 65 and:

  • You don’t have a history of abnormal cervical cells or cervical cancer or
  • You have had three negative Pap tests in a row or two negative co-testing for cervical cancer and HPV in the last 10 years

Doctors also recommend not scheduling a Pap test if you are currently on your period. Your doctor can offer additional information about when you should be screened and how to prepare.

Obstetricians/gynecologists at Revere Health OB/GYN provide a full range of healthcare services to women throughout all stages of their lives including; puberty, child-bearing years, menopause.


“CT scan (How you prepare).” The Mayo Clinic.

“Positron emission tomography scan (How you prepare).” The Mayo Clinic.

“MRI (How you prepare).” The Mayo Clinic.


The Live Better Team

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This information is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. You should always consult your doctor before making decisions about your health.