Screening for Cervical Cancer

The purpose of screening is early diagnosis and treatment. Screening tests are given to people without symptoms, but who may be at high risk for certain diseases or conditions.

Screening Tests

Screening tests to help detect cervical cancer include:

  • Pap test—A sample of cells in and around the cervix are taken and tested. The samples are checked for abnormal growth or cancer.
  • Human papillomavirus (HPV) test—The same sample of cells can be used to detect HPV infection.
  • Pelvic exam—The vagina, cervix, uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries are checked. This is done by hand.

Screening Guidelines

Screening guidelines vary among medical groups. Screening also depends on a person's health. In general, for healthy women (without prior cervical intraepithelial neoplasia [CIN] 2 or higher) they are:

  • Begin PAP tests at age 21 to 25 years.
  • Have a Pap AND HPV test every 5 years for women aged 25 to 65 years. They may continue with Pap tests every 3 years, if desired.
  • For women aged 65 years and older—Stop having Pap and HPV tests if tests have been normal for the past 10 years.

Pap tests may be recommended more often for those with:



Cervical cancer. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: . Accessed April 20, 2021.
Cervical cancer screening. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Accessed April 20, 2021.
Cervical cancer screening (PDQ). National Cancer Institute website. Available at: Accessed April 20, 2021.
Guidelines for the prevention and early detection of cervical cancer. American Cancer Society website. Available at: Accessed April 20, 2021.
Hu Z, Ma D. The precision prevention and therapy of HPV-related cervical cancer: new concepts and clinical implications. Cancer Med. 2018 Oct;7(10):5217-5236.
Last reviewed March 2021 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Mohei Abouzied, MD, FACP
Last Updated: 10/6/2021

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