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Cervical Cancer Tests, Diagnosis, Stages and Prognosis

Banner MD Anderson Cancer Center provides the best and latest diagnostic tests and treatments. Our team of caring specialists is here to answer your cervical cancer questions and help you understand your options.

How Common Is Cervical Cancer?

The American Cancer Society estimates 13,000 new cases of cervical cancer are diagnosed every year, with 4,200 women dying from cervical cancer. However, cervical cancer is one of the most preventable cancers in women. And, the death rate from cervical cancer has decreased significantly due to increased use of the Pap test and human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination.

How Is Cervical Cancer Diagnosed?

Cervical cancer screening can help find cervical cancer at an early stage – when the chances for successful treatment are greatest. It includes a Pap test and, for some women, an HPV test. If you’ve had the HPV vaccine, you still need to be screened.

The screening only takes a few minutes and may be slightly uncomfortable, but painless.

Along with regular Pap and HPV tests, practice awareness with your body – take note of any changes, like irregular bleeding or discharge, and report them to your doctor immediately.

Cervical Cancer Screening Guidelines

Every year, you should get a well-woman checkup (which includes breast and pelvic exams). Additionally, Banner MD Anderson, along with the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force (USPSTF), recommends women follow these cervical cancer screening guidelines:

  • Under age 21: USPSTF advises against cervical cancer screening for women younger than 21 years of age.
  • Age 21 to 29: Pap test every three years.
  • Age 30 to 64: Banner MD Anderson, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), and USPSTF recommend a Pap test and HPV test every five years, OR a Pap test every three years.
  • Age 65 or older: You may not need additional exams if you’ve not had abnormal Pap or HPV test results in the past 10 years. Discuss this with your doctor.
  • Hysterectomy: If you’ve have not had cervical cancer or severe cervical dysplasia, and your hysterectomy did not include removal of the cervix, you should get a Pap test and HPV test every five years. If your hysterectomy included removal of the cervix, talk to your doctor about continued screening.
  • Women at increased risk: If you have a higher risk for cervical cancer, you may start screening younger, get additional test or be tested more often. You’re at increased risk for cervical cancer if you have:
    • History of severe cervical dysplasia, a pre-cancerous condition
    • Persistent HPV infection after age 30
    • An immune system that doesn’t function properly
    • History of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)
    • Diethylstilbestrol (DES) exposure before birth

How Accurate are At-Home HPV Tests?

While at-home HPV tests claim to detect high-risk strains of cervical cancer, Banner MD Anderson recommends a Pap test is done by your doctor for the most accurate screening results.

Tests and screening are essential when it comes to the prevention of cervical cancer. At Banner MD Anderson, we have the resources and information you need, when you need them.

What Happens if I Have an Abnormal Cervical Cancer Screening?

In most cases, abnormalities don't mean you have cervical cancer. Depending on your symptoms, your doctor may suggest further testing, including:

  • Colposcopy
  • Biopsy
  • Pelvic exam
  • Blood tests
  • Computerized tomography (CT) scan
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan
  • Positive emission tomography (PET) scan
  • Chest X-ray

What Are the Stages of Cervical Cancer?

After testing, your doctor will talk to you about your stage of cancer. Staging measures how far the cancer has spread. Banner MD Anderson’s patient-focused approach means we’re here to support you and your family as you process your results and treatment options.

Cervical cancer staging uses the system developed by the International Federation of Obstetrics and Gynecology (FIGO).

  • Stage 0: Cancer is on the surface of the cervix
  • Stage I (1): Cancer is in the cervix
  • Stage II (2): Cancer has spread outside of the cervix to surrounding tissue
  • Stage III (3): Cancer has spread to the lower section of the vagina and/or pelvic wall
  • Stage IV (4): Cancer has spread to other organs

What Is the Prognosis for Patients with Cervical Cancer?

Thanks to routine Pap tests and the HPV vaccine, most cervical cancer is caught in the early stages and is highly treatable.

If you think you may be at risk for cervical cancer, make an appointment with a Banner MD Anderson cervical cancer specialist today. You can count on Banner MD Anderson’s caring staff to be by your side throughout your cancer journey.

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