Cervical Screening Test – DYSIS Medical

Cervical Screening Test

What is a cervical screening test?

Cervical screening is not a test for cancer, but rather a test that looks for abnormal cells in the cervix. If those abnormal cells are left untreated, they can develop into cancer.

A cervical screening test (previously called a Pap test or Pap smear) is a sample of cells taken from the cervix or vagina with a small brush and spatula and is typically not painful. The sample is sent to a laboratory, where it is analyzed under a microscope for abnormal cells that might become cervical cancer if they are not treated appropriately. The sample may also be tested for HPV.

How often should you be screened?

Cervical screening is for women and people with a cervix. As of September 2020, for those aged 25 to 65, the American Cancer Society recommends primary HPV test every five years. However, if primary HPV testing alone is not available, the American Cancer Society recommends a Pap test with HPV testing every five years, or a Pap test alone every three years.

For additional cervical screening guidelines, visit our Resource area.

Women with certain risk factors, such as HIV, chronic steroid use, weakened immune system, DES exposure, or previous abnormal Pap or HPV tests may require more frequent testing, so follow your provider’s instructions about what is best for you. ​

Cervical screening is just one part of your annual woman’s visit. Even when Pap or HPV tests are not needed, it is recommended you see your provider for your annual women’s health visit.

"Women belong in all places where decisions are being made... It shouldn't be that women are the exception."


How accurate is cervical screening?

The Pap test has been one of the most successful screening tests in history, but it is only successful if it is repeated over time as it can miss up to 50% of disease.​

It can detect cells that are mildly or severely abnormal, so you can be followed more closely (or treated if necessary) to prevent cervical cancer.

There are several things you can do to help make the Pap test as accurate as possible. These include avoidance of sex, douching and vaginal creams for 48 hours before the test.

Adding the HPV test to your Pap test improves screening accuracy. The HPV test can detect nearly 100% of high-risk HPV types and pre-cancers, so be sure to ask about HPV testing and typing.

What can cause an abnormal cervical screening result?

Any HPV infection causes the abnormal cell changes that are detected in the Pap test. These changes can be reported as mild, moderate or severe, or in some cases, inconclusive.

Your provider may recommend you repeat the Pap test and HPV test in one year, or you may need to have a colposcopy to be sure everything is okay.

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