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Cervical Cancer Screening in Women Ages 30 and Older


Abnormal (ab-NOR-mal): A finding that is not normal. An abnormal result means that your cervix has cell changes. Your doctor may use medical terms to describe these results. You may hear that your result came back as “LSIL” or “HSIL.” LSIL stands for “Low-grade Squamous Intra-epithelial Lesion”—which means minor cell changes on the cervix. HSIL stands for “High-grade Squamous Intra-epithelial Lesions”—which means more serious cell changes. Abnormal results do not mean you have cervical cancer. But you need to follow up as told by your doctor.

ASC-US (ASK-us): This word stands for “Atypical Squamous Cells of Undetermined Significance.” Doctors may use this word to describe a Pap test result that is unclear. Your doctor may also use words like “equivocal” or “inconclusive” to describe this result.

Biopsy (BUY-op-SEE): Your doctor uses this test to study abnormal cells. A small piece of tissue is taken from your cervix and checked under a microscope.

Cancer (KAN-ser): A disease that starts when cells in the body turn abnormal and begin to grow out of control. Abnormal (damaged) cells begin in one part of the body and can spread to other body parts. When they spread, the damaged cells replace normal cells. There are many types of cancer. Cancers are named based on where the abnormal cells first started growing. Cervical cancer is when the abnormal cells begin in the cervix.

Cells: The basic unit that makes up all living things.

Cervix (SUR-viks): The part of the womb (or uterus) that opens to the vagina.

Colposcopy (kol-POS-coe-pee):A method your doctor can use to magnify the cervix to see any abnormal cells using an instrument called a colposcope. It is very similar to having your Pap test.

Equivocal (ee-QUIV-o-kal): A Pap test result that is unclear. Your doctor may also use the term “ASC-US” to describe this result.

Fertility (fer-TIL-i-tee): The ability to have babies.

Follow-up: Going back to see your doctor for more testing or treatment.

Genitals (JEN-i-tlz): The reproductive organs, especially the external sex organs.

HPV or human papillomavirus (pap-ah-LO-mah-VYE-rus): A very common virus that infects the skin cells. There are many types of HPV. About 40 types, called genital HPV, affect the genital areas of men and women. Some of these types can cause cervical cancer in women. Other types can cause genital warts in men and women.

HPV DNA test (HPV test): A 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.

Inconclusive (in-kuhn-kloo-siv): A Pap test result that is unclear. Your doctor may also use the term “ASC-US” to describe this result.

Pap test: A 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.

Precancer: Cell changes that are not normal, but have not yet turned into cancer.

Prevent: To avoid or stop from getting.

Screening test: Getting 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.

Uterus (YOO-tuh-rus): The uterus, or womb, holds a growing baby and helps push the baby out during labor.

Virus (VYE-rus): Something that lives in the body and can cause infections. Viruses are so small that they cannot even be seen with a regular microscope.