Unless you have had a total hysterectomy you should have a Pap test every three years between the ages of 21 and 64 or a Pap plus HPV test every 5 years between the ages of 30 and 64.
Both of these tests detect cervical cancer.
Although cervical screening tests are the most effective cancer-screening tests in medical history, the National Cancer Institute believes that thousands of women still fail to have Cervical screening examinations. They may think they're finished having children and don't need them. They may think they're "too old" to have one. Unfortunately, of those women who die of cervical cancer, 80 percent have not had cervical screening examinations in five years or more.
Why two tests?
- The Papanicolaou test (Pap test) is a test your doctor does to check for signs of cancer of the cervix. The cervix is part of your uterus. During a Pap test, your doctor takes a sample of cells from your cervix to be tested and examined.
It is currently recommended that women ages 21-64 get a Pap
test every 3 years (who have not had a total hysterectomy)
2. The HPV test is a test your doctor does to check for the virus HPV that can become cancer over time. The HPV test can be done with the Pap test.
It is currently recommended that women age 30-64 have the HPV test along with the Pap test (who have not had a total hysterectomy)
During the Pap Test, your doctor takes a sample of cells from your cervix to be tested and examined for changes from normal to abnormal. Cells go through a series of changes before they turn into cancer. A Pap test can show if your cells are going through these changes long before you actually have cancer. If caught and treated early, cervical cancer is not life-threatening. This is why regular Pap tests are important.
To take the sample, your doctor will put an instrument called a speculum into your vagina. The painless insertion of a speculum allows for a sample to be taken from the cervix. Your doctor will gently swab your cervix with a cotton swab and then collect a sample of cells. This sample is placed onto a glass slide and sent to a laboratory to be checked under a microscope.
During the Pap + HPV test, the same procedure is followed, however the cells collected will be tested for HPV.
For women younger than 30, it is not currently recommended to get HPV testing.
What do the results mean?
A normal or “negative” Pap test means that the cells in your cervix are normal and healthy. It is still important to get screened as directed in the future as new cell changes can always form on your cervix.
Inflammation (irritation). This can be caused by an infection of the cervix, including a yeast infection, infection with the human papillomavirus (HPV), the herpes virus or many other infections.
An abnormal Pap test means that cell changes were found on your cervix; these changes are likely caused by HPV. The changes can be minor (low-grade) or serious (high-grade). Minor changes often go back to normal but more serious changes can turn into cancer if they are not removed. In rare cases, an abnormal Pap test can show that there is actually cancer present. The earlier you find cervical cancer, the easier it is to treat.
The HPV test will either come back as “positive” or “negative.” A negative HPV test means that you do not have an HPV type that is linked to cancer. A positive HPV test means that you do have an HPV type that may be linked to cervical cancer. This does not mean you have cervical cancer now, but it could be a warning. HPV test results are meaningful only with your Pap results.
What should I do before the Test?
Plan to have your tests done at a time when you are NOT having your menstrual period.
Two days prior to your test:
- You should not douche (rinse the vagina with water or another fluid).
- You should not use a tampon.
- You should not have sexual intercourse
- You should not use a birth control foam, cream, or jelly.
- You should not use a medicine or cream in your vagina.
What if my Pap test is abnormal?
Your doctor may perform another Pap test or suggest another test of the cervical tissue (colposcopy). Dr. Mills will discuss these options with you.
What puts me at risk for cervical cancer?
- Smoking Sexual activity before age 18 Multiple sexual partners Sexually transmitted infections or sex partner with an STI
Sexually transmitted infections may make your cells more likely to undergo changes that can lead to cancer. STIs include human papillomaviruses (HPV), herpes, gonorrhea, and Chlamydia.
The FDA has approved a vaccine, Gardasil, which blocks the types of HPV that cause cervical cancer. This vaccine is given to both females and males 11-26 years. It is still necessary for women to have regular cervical examinations and Pap tests.
Available in our area:
- CEED provides free cervical screening (Pap test) that is income based for people with no insurance.
- Monmouth County Health Department; Free breast exam and cervical screenings (PAP test)
3435 Rte. 9 South, Freehold, NJ OR 17 Broad Street, Freehold,