cervical cancer screening
African American doctor and her female patient analyzing medical report after examination in the hospital. Focus is on female patient.

Reviewed By Dr. Mana Baskovic

Cervical cancer is a type of cancer that affects the cervix, which is the lower part of the uterus that connects to the vagina. It is a preventable cancer, and early detection through regular cervical cancer screenings is crucial for successful treatment. In this article, we will discuss what cervical cancer screening is, how it is done, when it should be done, and what tests are available for screening. We will also discuss what to do with your cervical cancer screening test results.

At Saint John’s Physician Partners our board certified OBGYN’s are dedicated to providing high-quality, comprehensive women’s health care encompassing all ages, identities and backgrounds. 

What is the Purpose of Cervical Cancer Screening?

Cervical cancer screening is a test to check for precancerous cells or early stages of cervical cancer. It is important to get regular cervical cancer screenings because, if caught early, cervical cancer is highly treatable. Regular cervical cancer screenings can also help prevent the development of cervical cancer by detecting precancerous cells.

Who Should Be Screened for Cervical Cancer?

Cervical cancer screening is recommended for women who have a cervix and are between the ages of 21 and 65. It is important for all women within this age range to undergo regular cervical cancer screening, even if they have had the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine or have previously had abnormal Pap test results. This is because cervical cancer often has no symptoms in its early stages, and the best way to detect it is through screening. Women over the age of 65 who have had regular screenings with normal results in the past may be able to stop screening. However, it is important to discuss this decision with a healthcare provider.

Why is it Important to Detect Cervical Cancer Early?

It is important to detect cervical cancer early because it is a highly treatable and curable form of cancer when caught in its early stages. When cervical cancer is not detected until it has progressed to later stages, it can be much more difficult to treat and may require more aggressive and invasive forms of treatment. In addition, early detection can help to prevent the cancer from spreading to other parts of the body, which can significantly improve a person’s prognosis. Early detection can also help to reduce the number of deaths caused by cervical cancer. 

Is Screening Necessary?

Cervical cancer screening is necessary for women to detect the presence of abnormal cells in the cervix, which if left untreated can develop into cervical cancer. It is recommended that women between the ages of 21 and 65 get a cervical cancer screening test at least every three years, and women over 30 may choose to get screened every five years if they have had three consecutive negative Pap test results. The screening test, which is usually a Pap test or a HPV test, can detect the presence of precancerous cells, allowing for early treatment and potentially preventing the development of cervical cancer. It is important to note that while cervical cancer can be a serious and potentially life-threatening disease, it is also one of the most preventable types of cancer thanks to the availability of effective screening tests.

How is a Cervical Screening Done?

There are two main tests that are used for cervical cancer screening: the Pap test and the HPV test. Both tests involve the following steps:

  1. The patient will be asked to undress from the waist down.
  2. The healthcare provider will gently insert a speculum into the vagina to get a better view of the cervix.
  3. The provider will collect a sample of cells from the cervix.
  4. The collected cells will be sent to a laboratory for analysis.

When Should I Get a Cervical Cancer Screening?

The American Cancer Society recommends that women start getting cervical cancer screenings at age 21. Women between the ages of 21 and 29 should get a Pap test every three years. Women between the ages of 30 and 65 should get a Pap test and an HPV test every five years, or a Pap test alone every three years. Women over the age of 65 who have had regular cervical cancer screenings with normal results and are not at high risk for cervical cancer can stop getting cervical cancer screenings. It is important to talk to your healthcare provider about what is best for your individual situation.

What Are The 2 Important Cervical Cancer Screenings?

The Pap test is a test that looks for abnormal cells on the cervix. The HPV test is a test that looks for the human papillomavirus (HPV), which is a virus that can cause abnormal cells to develop on the cervix.

While HPV is the biggest risk factor to developing cervical cancer, other risk factors can include: Chlamydia, smoking, obesity, a family history of cervical cancer, poor diet, birth control pills, having three full-term pregnancies and being younger than 17 when pregnant for the first time.

Your primary care physician can direct you to a board certified Obgyn for screening. Both the Pap test and the HPV test are an important part of your overall health care. For more information, click the following link: https://www.sjpp.org/find-a-doctor/ You can also contact us 7 days a week from 9am-5pm by calling 310-828-8585. 

What To Do With Your Test Results

It is important to follow up with your healthcare providers about your cervical cancer screening test results. If your tests show any abnormalities, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have cancer. Abnormal test results may be due to inflammation, infection or precancerous cells. Your healthcare providers will discuss your tests results with you any may recommend further testing or treatment. For further information, click the link: https://www.sjpp.org/obgyn/conditions/abnormal-bleeding/

If your test results are normal, your providers will likely recommend that you continue with regular screenings according to the recommended schedule. 

Screening for cervical cancer is an important part of any woman’s health care. If you have questions or concerns about your screenings, contact a physician. Call us seven days a week, 9 am to 5 pm at 310-828-8585 or, if you prefer, visit the following link to find a doctor today.

Mana Baskovic MD

About Dr. Mana Baskovic

Dr. Baskovic graduated from USC with a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and a post-baccalaureate degree from the University of California in Los Angeles in Biomedical Science. She earned her medical degree at Western University in Pomona, California, followed by an internship and residency in Obstetrics & Gynecology at Stanford University in California.