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Cervical Cancer Screening

Common Questions About Cervical Cancer and Screening for Cervical Cancer

Why should I have a Pap test?
A Pap test can detect cancer or abnormal cervical cells before they turn into cancer.   When caught early, the chance of successful treatment is greatly increased.

Could you have cancer of the cervix and not know it?
Yes, often there are no signs or symptoms of cervical cancer.

How often should I get a Pap test?
A Pap test should be done within 3 years of first sexual activity or age 21, whichever comes first. Women 21 to 65 years of age should have a Pap test every 3 years. Women 65 years or older should speak with their doctor to determine if and when to get a Pap test.  Women who have had normal Pap tests results for several years, or who have had their cervix removed as part of a total hysterectomy for non-cancerous conditions, may not need to have a Pap test. In addition, depending on your risk factors, your doctor may have you get a Pap test more frequently.

How often should I get a Pap test?
In the early stages, cervical cancer may not cause any signs or symptoms.  So, it is important to follow your doctor’s instructions on when and how often to get a Pap test. If you experience abnormal vaginal bleeding or discharge, see your doctor right away.

How is a Pap test performed?
Your doctor can do a Pap test during a pelvic exam.  It is a simple and quick test.  You will lie down on an exam table and the doctor will insert an instrument called a speculum into your vagina.  This will help them see your cervix (lower part of your uterus).  They will then use a special stick or brush to take a few cells from the surface and inside the cervix.  The cells are sent to a lab for testing.  The test may be mildly uncomfortable, but should not be painful.  You may also have some spotting afterwards.

When will I get the results of my Pap test?
It can take as long as four weeks to receive your Pap test results.

Where do you get a Pap test?
From a family doctor, OB/GYN, medical clinic or local health department.

What is a HPV test?
If you are 30 years or older, you may choose to have an HPV test along with the Pap test.  Both tests are performed at the same time.  The HPV test looks for the human papillomavirus – a common sexually transmitted infection that can cause cervical cancer in some women.

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