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Cervical cancer screening  infographic.

Cervical Cancer Screening (Text Version)

What Is It?

Cervical cancer screening may include Pap tests, testing for a virus called human papillomavirus (HPV), or both. In both tests, cells are taken from the cervix and sent to a lab for testing:

  • A Pap test looks for abnormal cells.

  • An HPV test looks for infection with the types of HPV that are linked to cervical cancer.

Follow these Guidelines:

  • If you are younger than 21—You do not need screening.

  • If you are 21 to 29— Have a Pap test alone every 3 years. HPV testing alone can be considered for women who are 25 to 29, but Pap tests are preferred.

  • If you are 30 to 65—You can choose one of three options:

    • Have a Pap test and an HPV test (co-testing) every 5 years

    • Have a Pap test alone every 3 years

    • Have an HPV test alone every 5 years

  • If you are 65 or older—You do not need screening if you have no history of cervical changes and either three negative Pap test results in a row, two negative HPV tests in a row, or two negative co-test results in a row within the past 10 years. The most recent test should have been performed within the past 3 or 5 years, depending on the type of test.


  • You still need to have screening if you have been vaccinated against HPV.

  • You may still need to have screening if you have had a hysterectomy and your cervix was not removed.

Exceptions to These Guidelines

If any of these apply to you:

  • You have human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

  • You have a weakened immune system.

  • You have a history of cervical cancer.

  • You were exposed to diethylstilbestrol before birth.

You may need more frequent screening.

If you have had a hysterectomy in which your cervix was removed and:

  • You have a history of cervical cancer or moderate to severe cervical changes—Continue to have screening for 20 years after your surgery.

  • You have no history of cervical cancer or cervical changes—You do not need screening.

See Your Ob-Gyn Regularly for a Routine Visit.

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Even if you are not due for cervical cancer screening, you should still see your ob-gyn regularly for birth control counseling, vaccinations, health screenings, prepregnancy care, and the latest information about your reproductive health.

PFSI009: This information was designed as an educational aid to patients and sets forth current information and opinions related to women’s health. It is not intended as a statement of the standard of care, nor does it comprise all proper treatments or methods of care. It is not a substitute for a treating clinician’s independent professional judgment. Please check for updates at to ensure accuracy.

Copyright May 2021 by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, posted on the internet, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without prior written permission from the publisher.

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