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Cervical Cancer Screening in Women Ages 30 and Older

How to Prevent Cervical Cancer

Did you know that if you have a normal Pap test and a negative HPV test, it is safe to wait 5 years until your next cervical cancer screening exam?
Now, that’s good news!

When to Screen

Your results on the HPV test and Pap test will tell your doctor how long it is safe for you to wait before getting screened again.

If I Have HPV, Do I Have Cervical Cancer?

No. HPV is not the same as cervical cancer. HPV is the virus that can cause cervical cancer. Many women have HPV. Few of them get cervical cancer if they follow their doctor’s advice for more testing and/or treatment.

What Will Happen if I Need to Come Back for More Testing?

Your doctor will do what’s right for you, based on your test results.

Your doctor may

  • Ask you to wait before re-testing with the Pap and/or HPV test. This is called “watchful waiting.” It is common.
  • Take a closer look at your cervix. This is done using a special lens that makes your cervix look bigger (called a colposcopy).
  • Take a small sample of your cervix (called a biopsyYour doctor uses this test to study abnormal cells. A small piece of tissue is taken from your cervix and checked under a microscope.) to study it more carefully.
  • Treat you. This involves destroying or taking out the abnormal cells. These treatments may be uncomfortable, but they can be done during one visit to your doctor.
  • Refer you to a specialist. This might happen if your test results suggest that you may have cancer.

Why Wait for More Tests if I Could Have Cancer?

It is possible that the cell changes you have will never turn into cancer. They may go back to normal without any treatment. And since treatment can have risks and side effects, it is best to make sure you really need treatment before getting it. Cervical changes happen very slowly. Some time must pass before your doctor can tell if these changes need to be treated. Be patient. But be sure to go back to your doctor when told—for all appointments and testing.

ImportantRemember: Many women get HPV. But few of them get cervical cancer—as long as they get the tests and treatments their doctor recommends. Most times, problems that are found can be treated before they ever turn into cervical cancer.

No smoking sign

What Else Can I Do to Prevent Cervical Cancer?

  • Keep your next doctor’s appointment. Mark your calendar or post a note so you remember it.
  • Go back for more testing or treatment if your doctor tells you to.
  • Keep getting regular Pap tests—at least once every 3 years or every 5 years with the Pap and HPV tests.
  • Do not smoke. Smoking harms all of your body’s cells, including your cervical cells. If you smoke and have HPV, you have higher chances of getting cervical cancer. If you smoke, ask your doctor for help quitting.

Preventive Health Screenings

It is still important to see your doctor regularly for preventive health screenings, called well-woman visits, even if

  • Your Pap and HPV DNA tests are normal and you will not get a Pap and HPV test each visit.
  • You feel healthy.
  • You are past your childbearing years.
A doctor talking to a patient and her husband

Your well-woman visits are a chance for you to talk to your provider about

  • Your menstrual cycle (period).
  • Birth control.
  • Sexuality.
  • Infertility.
  • Menopause (the change of life).
  • Depression.
  • Other health concerns.

Your doctor may also want to screen you for

  • Breast cancer.
  • Blood pressure.
  • Other health problems.