The cervix is the lower part of the uterus, the place where a baby grows during pregnancy. Cancer screening is looking for cancer before you have any symptoms. Cancer found early may be easier to treat.
Cervical cancer screening is usually part of a woman's health checkup. There are two types of tests: the Pap test and the HPV test. For both, the doctor or nurse collects cells from the surface of the cervix. With the Pap test, the lab checks the sample for cancer cells or abnormal cells that could become cancer later. With the HPV test, the lab checks for HPV infection. HPV is a virus that spreads through sexual contact. It can sometimes lead to cancer. If your screening tests are abnormal, your doctor may do more tests, such as a biopsy.
Cervical cancer screening has risks. The results can sometimes be wrong, and you may have unnecessary follow-up tests. There are also benefits. Screening has been shown to decrease the number of deaths from cervical cancer. You and your doctor should discuss your risk for cervical cancer, the pros and cons of the screening tests, at what age to start being screened, and how often to be screened.