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Cervical Cancer Screenings

It’s important not to put off getting preventive screenings. Skipping them means you may miss a chance to catch and treat problems early. There is no cost for a cervical cancer screening, and it could save your life.
Cervical cancer affects the cervix (the lower part of the uterus that opens into the vagina). It is one of the most preventable and treatable types of cancer.

Doctors use a Pap test or Pap/HPV test to check for cervical cancer. Most cervical cancers are found in women who do not have regular screenings. Regular testing helps find cervical cancer or precancer changes early. When caught early, this cancer can be cured.

Cervical cancer and HPV FAQ

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How many people get cervical cancer?

More than 10,000 women in the U.S. will find out they have cervical cancer this year. About 4,000 women will die of the disease. But over the past 30 years, the death rate from cervical cancer has dropped by more than 50 percent.

How are HPV screenings and cervical cancer screenings related?

Human papillomavirus (HPV) causes almost all cervical cancer. But if you have HPV, that does not mean you will get cancer.

Can men get HPV?

Yes. Men can get HPV by having sex with a partner who has HPV. It often has no signs or symptoms.

How can I prevent HPV?

HPV spreads through sexual contact and can also spread through contact with an infected body part. Be sure to use protection.

An HPV vaccine is available for girls and women ages 9 through 26.

An HPV vaccine is also available for boys starting at age 11.

You should not receive the HPV vaccine if you:
  • Are allergic to any if the ingredients in the vaccine.
  • Have had an allergic reaction after getting a dose of the vaccine.

If I have HPV, does this mean I will get cervical cancer?

No. HPV causes almost all cervical cancer, but that does not mean you will get cervical cancer.

Screening FAQ

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How often should I get screened?

Women ages 21 to 65 should get a Pap test every three years
Women ages 30 to 65 should get the combined Pap/HPV test every five years

What happens during the screening?

Your doctor or gynecologist will use a speculum to look inside the vagina and cervix. Then, with a tiny cotton swab or spatula, the doctor or gynecologist will collect cells from your cervix to send to a lab. Once the lab receives the cotton swab, they test for cancer cells or cells that could become cancerous.

How long does the screening take?

Just a few minutes!

Where can I get a cervical cancer screening?

You can do the Pap test or the combined Pap/HPV test at your doctor’s office or your gynecologist’s office without a referral.

How much does a cervical cancer screening cost?

All preventive screenings cost nothing for UPMC Health Plan members.

How to prepare for a screening

Before a screening, you may feel nervous, but don’t worry – we’ve got you covered. Here some tips to help you get ready for your screening:

  • Do not schedule this test when you have your period. Reschedule your appointment if your period starts, unless your period is light.
  • Know the first day of your last period and how long it lasted.
  • For at least 24 hours before the test, do not have sex or use tampons, douches, vaginal medicines, sprays, or powders.
  • Prepare to undress fully or from the waist down. You will stay covered the whole time with a gown or cloth. You will lie on an exam table with your feet on footrests. You may want to wear a pair of socks to keep your feet warm.
  • Let your doctor know if this is your first Pap test, you are using birth control, you are or think you may be pregnant, or if you have any other concerns.
  • Tell the doctor if you feel anxious about the test or if anything hurts.

Call your doctor today to schedule your cervical cancer screening.

UPMC Health Plan: Screening with Meaning.

Sources: American Cancer Society, National Cervical Cancer Coalition, UPMC.