Cervical Cancer Screening Guidelines

Screening and Diagnosis of Cervical Cancer
Gynecologic cancer specialists explain how cervical cancer is diagnosed and the importance of annual Pap smear tests.
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 Early detection of cancerous changes in the cervix is critical to being able to offer you effective treatment. At Memorial Sloan Kettering we recommend that women get screened for cancerous changes in the cervix on the following schedule: 

For women age 21 to 30

We recommend that you have your first cervical cancer screening when you turn 21. We also recommend cervical cytology testing – a Pap smear or liquid-based cytology – every two years.

For women age 30 and above

We recommend the following three screening strategies. Your treatment team will help you choose the one that’s right for you:

  • cervical cytology testing every two years
  • cervical cytology testing every three years if you’ve had three negative or satisfactory annual cytology tests
  • cervical cytology testing and an HPV DNA test every three years if your cytology and DNA tests are negative: (the DNA test tells your doctor if HPV is present — if HPV isn’t present, you’re less likely to get cervical cancer, and can go longer between tests)

Additional Considerations

Memorial Sloan Kettering experts also recommend that, regardless of your age, you undergo annual cervical cytology screening (either a Pap smear or liquid-based cytology) if you have a weakened or compromised immune system or were exposed to the synthetic estrogen drug DES when your mother was pregnant with you.