Cervical Cancer Screening with the HPV Test and the Pap Test in Women Ages 30 and Older
Cervical Cancer Screening Tests
How Can I Prevent Cervical Cancer?
You can preventTo avoid or stop from getting. cervical cancer with regular screening tests, like the Pap test and the HPV DNA test (HPV test). The Pap testA screening test that looks for early signs of cervical cancer. It finds abnormal cells on a woman’s cervix. For this test, your doctor takes cells from your cervix so that they can be looked at with a microscope. is a screening testGetting tested for early signs of disease so the problem can be treated before the disease ever develops. Cancer screening tests look for early signs of cancer so you can take steps to avoid ever getting cancer. The Pap and HPV tests screen for early signs of cervical cancer. for cervical cancer. It looks for abnormal cells on your cervix that could turn into cancer over time. That way, problems can be found and treated before they ever turn into cancer. All women should start getting regular Pap tests at age 21.
An HPV testA test that looks for HPV on a woman’s cervix. Doctors take cells by swabbing the cervix. This is often done at the same time as a Pap test, and may be called co-testing or HPV co-testing. The HPV test can be used at the same time as the Pap test, called the HPV co-test, for women 30 years of age and older. The HPV test may also be used after an inconclusive Pap test, called a reflex HPV test, for women 21 years of age and older. looks for the virus that can cause abnormal cells on your cervix. For women ages 30 and older, the HPV test can be used along with the Pap test. This is called HPV co-testing. Screening tests can find early problems before they become cancer. That way, problems can be found and removed before they ever become cancer.
Cervical cancer often does not cause symptoms until it is advanced. So it is important to get screened even when you feel healthy.
You took the first step to prevent cervical cancer by getting a Pap test. If you’re reading this booklet, you may also have received the HPV test with your Pap test. These tests are often done at the same time.
The Pap and HPV Tests Look for Different Things:
The Pap Test
Checks your cervix for abnormal cells that could turn into cervical cancer.
The HPV Test
Checks your cervix for the virus (HPV) that can cause abnormal cells and cervical cancer.
The Pap and HPV tests can find problems early that could lead to cervical cancer over time.
These tests do not:
- Check for early signs of other cancers.
- Check your fertility.The ability to have babies.
- Check for other sexually transmitted infections.
- Check for all HPV types. There are many types of HPV. Only HPV tests that check for HPV types linked to cervical cancer are recommended.
According to some expert organizations, screening for cervical cancer with both the HPV test and the Pap test is an option for women ages 30 and older.
Getting the HPV test with the Pap test at the same time can safely increase screening intervals up to 5 years for women who do not have HPV and have a normal Pap test result even if they have new sexual partners.
Even without the HPV test, women who have several normal Pap tests only need a Pap test every 3 years.
The HPV test will not tell you if you ever had HPV, but only if you have HPV now.
Why Don’t Doctors Recommend the HPV Test as a Screening Test for Younger Women and Teens?
HPV is very common in women younger than age 30. Since most HPV that is found in these women will never cause them health problems, it is not useful to test young women for HPV. Most young women will fight off HPV within a few years.
HPV is less common in women older than age 30. HPV also is more likely to signal a health problem for these women, who may have had the virus for many years because their bodies did not fight off HPV. Doctors may use the HPV test to tell if these women are at higher risk for cervical cancer and if they need to be screened more often.
Regular Pap tests (alone) are still good screening tests for cervical cancer—for any woman ages 21 and older.
In the United States, Cervical Cancer Is Rare in Women in Their 20s. It Is Much More Common in Women Older than 30.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Division of Cancer Prevention and Control
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