Cervical Cancer Screening – Recommendations and What to Expect
Cervical cancer is one of the most common causes of cancer-related death for American women; However, there is good news! The rate of cervical cancer death has dropped significantly. Due to an increase in pap screenings and general awareness of this life-saving technology.
Screenings are the best shot at early cervical cancer detection as well as providing the most effective preventative measure. Through the early discovery of abnormal cervical cells (pre-cancers) and subsequent treatment. A pap-screening may save your life!
So, when should you get one?
The American Cancer Society provides the following guidelines for preventative and early detection cervical cancer care:
- Cervical cancer screening begins at age 21, with women in their 20s getting a pap test every 3 years.
- At the age of 30, women should get a pap test/HPV test combination every 5 years.
- Alternatively, women age 30 to 65 may get a pap test every 3 years.
- Women with a high risk of cervical cancer due to a suppressed immune system or due to DES exposure in utero may need more frequent screenings. (This is a conversation to have with your health care professional for an individualized plan of action.)
- Over 65 years old who have had regular screenings with no signs of pre-cancers (CIN2 or CIN3) may stop getting cervical cancer screenings.
- With a history of CIN2 or CIN3 (cervical intraepithelial neoplasia) should continue to get regular screenings.
- Ladies who have undergone a hysterectomy (cervix and uterus removal) may stop getting regular screenings, unless the hysterectomy was part of treatment for cervical pre-cancer or cancer.
- If you have received an HPV vaccination, you should still follow the American Cancer Society recommendations.
Cervical Cancer Screenings – What to Expect?
Undergoing a Pap smear procedure involves your doctor or health care professional collecting cells from your cervix and sending these cells to the lab for evaluation.
First, your doctor will do a physical exam of the vulva to check for HPV. Next, your doctor will use a warmed speculum to open up the walls of your vagina to examine the cervix and obtain cervix cells. That’s it! Your doctor will then send off the cell samples to a lab for testing. The exam portion only takes about 5 minutes.