Cervical cancer is a critical health issue impacting hundreds of  thousands of women globally. Fortunately, with regular gynecological exams and cervical cancer screenings, the disease can often be detected in its early stages, increasing the likelihood of successful treatment. 

This article will discuss when you should start getting screened for cervical cancer, how often you should be screened, and how to prepare for these necessary examinations.

Why Cervical Cancer Screenings Matter

Cervical cancer begins in the cells of the cervix, which connects the uterus to the vagina. Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the primary cause of cervical cancer. 

Regular screenings can help detect precancerous cells or early stages of cervical cancer, allowing for timely treatment and an improved prognosis. Gynecological exams and cervical cancer screenings are essential for women’s health because they:

  • Detect abnormalities or changes in the cervix
  • Help diagnose infections or other issues that could affect fertility or overall health
  • Provide an opportunity for women to discuss concerns or questions about their reproductive health with an OBGYN

When to Start Getting Screened for Cervical Cancer

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG),The American Society for Colposcopy and Cervical Pathology (ASCCP), and The Society of Gynecological Oncologists (SGO) recommend starting pap smears at age 21.

It is essential to discuss your personal risk factors and family history with your OBGYN to determine the best time for you to begin cervical cancer screenings.

How Often to Get Screened for Cervical Cancer

The frequency of cervical cancer screenings depends on your age and the type of test being used. There are two main tests for cervical cancer screening: the Pap test (also known as a Pap smear) and the HPV test.

  • For women aged 25-65, it is advised to get a primary HPV test every five years.
  • If primary HPV testing is unavailable, a Pap test every three years or a combination of a Pap test and an HPV test (co-testing) every five years is recommended.
  • Women over 65 who have had consistent screenings with normal results may be able to stop getting screened for cervical cancer. However, this decision should be made in consultation with your OBGYN.

It is important to note that these recommendations may change if you have a history of cervical cancer, a weakened immune system, or other risk factors. Always consult your OBGYN for personalized guidance on the frequency of your cervical cancer screenings.

How to Prepare for Your Cervical Cancer Screening

In order to obtain the most precise outcomes from your cervical cancer screening, there are several measures you can follow to get ready for your consultation:

  • Schedule Your Appointment When You Are Not Menstruating: Heavy menstrual bleeding can make it challenging for your OBGYN to obtain a clear sample of cervical cells. So, scheduling your screening when you are not on your period is best.
  • Avoid Sexual Intercourse, Douching, and Using Tampons or Vaginal Medications for 24-48 Hours before Your Appointment: These activities can temporarily alter the cells of the cervix and potentially interfere with the accuracy of your test results.
  • Discuss Any Concerns or Symptoms with Your OBGYN: If you have been experiencing unusual symptoms, such as abnormal vaginal discharge, pain during intercourse, or persistent pelvic pain, discuss these concerns with your OBGYN during your appointment. These symptoms may require further investigation and could impact the type of screening you receive.


Regular cervical cancer screenings are an essential part of maintaining your reproductive health. By understanding when to get screened and how to prepare for the process, you can take control of your health and ensure that any potential issues are detected early and treated promptly.

Are you looking for a certified obstetrician in Forest Hills, NY? Don’t settle for less when it comes to your reproductive health. Put your trust in Barbara Hessel, MD, FACOG, a seasoned OB/GYN expert with over 25 years of experience.

As a member of the prestigious American Association of Gynecologic Laparoscopists and recipient of the Special Excellence in Endoscopic Procedures Award, Dr. Hessel is a cut above the rest. Schedule your appointment today at her Forest Hills, NY office