Pap tests, also known as pap smears, look for abnormal cells that can lead to cancer in the cervix. Cervical cancer screening is effective for preventing cervical cancer. During a Pap test, your provider will insert a tool into your vagina that helps your healthcare provider see and swab your cervix with a soft brush. They’ll use the cells on the brush to test in a lab and share back the results to you.
HPV tests look for the human papillomavirus, a virus that can cause cervical cancer. Pap smears and HPV tests can be done at the same time (called co-testing). There are different types of HPV, and some are more likely to cause cervical cancer. Your provider will be able to test which type if it is positive. Similar to a pap smear, during an HPV test, your healthcare provider will insert a tool into your vagina so they can swab your cervix with a soft brush/cotton swab.
The American Cancer Society (ACS) has updated guidelines for cervical cancer screening. ACS recommends cervical cancer screening with an HPV test alone every 5 years for everyone with a cervix from age 25 until age 65.
If HPV testing alone is not available, people can get screened with an HPV/Pap co-test every 5 years or a Pap test every 3 years.
|Guidelines from the ACS|
|Age range||2020 Screening Recs from ACS|
|25-29||-HPV test every 5 years (preferred) OR -HPV/Pap cotest every 5 years (acceptable) OR -Pap test every 3 years (acceptable)|
|30-65||-HPV test every 5 years (preferred) OR -HPV/Pap cotest every 5 years (acceptable) OR -Pap test every 3 years (acceptable)|
|65 and older||No screening if a series of prior tests were normal|