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Health library

Reviewed 11/13/2023

Pap and HPV tests: True or false?

Every year around 13,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer in the United States. Fortunately, HPV and Pap tests help doctors catch it early, when it's easier to treat. How much do you know about cervical cancer screening?

True or false: Women need to be tested for cervical cancer every year.

False. According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), screening for cervical cancer should start at age 25. Women ages 25 to 65 should have a primary HPV test every 5 years. If primary HPV testing is not available, screening is recommended with either a test that combines an HPV test with a Pap test every 5 years or a Pap test alone every 3 years.

True or false: Once you've had the HPV vaccine, you no longer need to be screened for cervical cancer .

False. People who've received the HPV vaccine should still be screened regularly between ages 25 and 65.

True or false: Cervical cancer tests are especially important for women over 65.

False. While cervical cancer can strike women at any age, it is most often diagnosed between the ages of 35 and 44. Vaccinations, and regular HPV and Pap tests and HPV tests all play an important role in prevention. However, women over 65 who have had normal results likely don't need to continue to be screened.

True or false: Screening has greatly reduced the number of cervical cancer deaths.

True. Cervical cancer usually does not present symptoms until its advanced stages. This made early detection extremely challenging before the Pap test became widespread. The test has greatly reduced both the number of cases of cervical cancer and the number of deaths from cervical cancer since the 1950s.

Although the Pap test is still good at finding cervical cancer early, the ACS now recommends a primary HPV test alone, when available, as the preferred way to screen for the disease.

True or false: If you've had a hysterectomy, you don't need to be screened for cervical cancer any longer.

False. Some women may be able to stop cervical cancer screening after a hysterectomy, but some should not. It depends on a number of factors, including whether or not the cervix was removed and your personal history of cancer or abnormal cells. Talk to your doctor about what's best for you.

Learn more about the HPV vaccine, and find out what else you can do to reduce your risk of cervical cancer at every stage in your life.

Cervical cancer prevention


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