What all women should know about cervical cancer screening

Cervical cancer screenings are an important part of women’s preventive health care. Your physician will help you decide when you need to start screening tests and how often you should have them, based on your personal health history and that of your family. Regardless of your personal risk factors for cervical cancer, here are some facts that all women should know about these kinds of screening tests.

Why are cervical cancer screening tests important?
Cervical cancer screenings allow your physician to identify abnormal cells in your cervix that could be cancerous or precancerous. Screenings help women get cervical cancer diagnoses in early stages of the disease, when it is easier to treat.

Precancerous cells in the cervix often take between three and seven years to develop into cancer. With regular screening tests, these cells can be identified before they become cancerous so that they can be removed or otherwise treated, which could help to prevent cervical cancer.

What happens during cervical cancer screening tests?
Cervical cancer screenings are performed using a Pap test. During a Pap test, cells are gently brushed away from the cervix and examined under a microscope to look for any abnormalities.

Some women also have HPV tests as part of their cervical cancer screenings. This test looks for forms of HPV that increase the risk of cervical cancer. A positive HPV test does not mean that a woman has cervical cancer but rather that she has an increased risk of the disease.

How often do I need to be screened for cervical cancer?
Usually, women between 21 and 29 need to have a Pap test every three years and do not need HPV testing. Between 30 and 65, women usually need both tests every five years, or they can opt to have Pap tests every three years.

If you have a history of gynecological cancer or if cervical cancer runs in your family, you may need more frequent testing.

The Cancer Center at Los Robles Hospital and Medical Center assists with all stages of cancer care, from screening tests to comprehensive treatment plans. Contact our hospital in Thousand Oaks today at (877) 888-5746 for a referral to a women’s health physician or our cancer team.