Family Nurse Practitioner, Betsy Mikac, answers Frequently Asked Questions about cervical cancer screening.

Cervical Cancer Screening FAQs

 

How is cervical cancer detected?

Two methods to screen for cervical cancer include a PAP smear and human papilloma virus (HPV) test. A PAP smear is an important screening method to detect potentially precancerous and cancerous cells in the cervix. An HPV test is done similarly however checks for the presence of some high risk strains of HPV that can cause cervical cancer. 

 

Why are these tests important? 

The screening tests are important to detect cervical cancer in its early stages as most individuals at this stage do not experience any signs or symptoms.

 

What does a PAP Smear/HPV test entail? 

Both tests involve taking a sample of cells from the surface of your cervix. To obtain the sample, your provider will gently insert a tool called a speculum into the vagina to adequately visualize the cervix. Two small brushes are then used to obtain the sample. The sample is sent to a lab and reviewed closely to see if there are any cell abnormalities. The test(s)should not cause pain but may be slightly uncomfortable for a very brief period of time. 

 

How do I know if I need a PAP/HPV test? 

Pap smears should be performed on all women 21 years old, regardless of sexual activity. If the results are normal, a Pap smear is typically repeated every 3 years for women 21-29 years old. For women 30-65 years old, a PAP smear can be done every 3 years alone or depending on your provider you can have screening with both a PAP AND HPV test every 5 years if the results are normal. Women over 65 who have had had 3 consecutive PAP smears with normal results or 2 combination PAP/HPV tests over the past 10 years with no new sexual partners do not require PAP screening. 

 

- Betsy Mikac, FNP-C

 

 

*Some health conditions may require closer monitoring so be sure to discuss further with your provider. 

(Source:UpToDate, CDC)

 

 

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