What Every Woman Should Know About Cervical Cancer Screenings

The two tests women can get to screen for cervical cancer are the Pap test and an HPV test. Both tests use the same process and can be completed in a doctor’s office. However, the guidelines of each pertaining to when and how often they should be done differ slightly.


Two days before either test is performed, women should not insert anything into their vagina. This includes douches, tampons, birth control, or any type of cream or medicine. Women should also refrain from having sex two days before the test is administered. While tests can be conducted while a woman is menstruating, she should always check with her doctor as some prefer to wait until patients are done menstruating before performing either exam.


The Pap test and the HPV test both use a speculum to open a woman’s vagina, so the doctor can take a swab of the cervix. The swab contains a sample of cells and mucus from the cervix that is then sent to a laboratory and examined for any abnormalities or precancerous cells. When an HPV test has been done, the cells will be tested for the virus.


An HPV test is administered to detect human papillomavirus, which can cause cervical, vaginal, and vulvar cancers in women. Women generally do not need to have this type of test until they are 30 years old. If an HPV test returns and is normal, a woman can typically wait five more years before having another test done. HPV testing can be done at the same time as a Pap test.


Women who are 65 and older may not need to be screened for cervical cancer. A doctor can let them know if they no longer need to be tested if test results over the past several years have been normal or if they have had their cervix removed as part of a hysterectomy.


Test results can take up to three weeks return during the screening process. Abnormal results are more common than people think and do not necessarily mean that a woman has cervical cancer. A doctor can order additional tests and can also prescribe a course of treatment that can prevent cervical cancer from developing. When normal test results are returned, the doctor will inform the patient and recommend a date for her next test, which will generally be between three to five years.


The Pap test and the HPV test are both very important tools to screen for cervical cancer and maintain a woman’s health. Women should get tested when they are the appropriate age and then at regular intervals, according to medical guidelines and their doctor’s recommendations. If an individual receives a test that later turns out to be inaccurate, resulting in a misdiagnosis, they should consult a skilled cervical cancer misdiagnosis lawyer that could advocate for them.