Early cervical cancer usually does not cause symptoms. To reduce the risk of cervical cancer, doctors recommend regular Pap tests. These tests, also called Pap smears or cervical smears, can find abnormal cells early that can lead to cervical cancer. Finding and treating these abnormal cells can prevent most cervical cancer. The Pap test involves a doctor or nurse scraping a sample of cells from the cervix. A lab checks the cells for abnormal cells and sometimes for HPV infection.

If a woman has abnormal Pap results, the doctor will use additional tests to make a diagnosis:

Colposcopy - The doctor uses a tool called a colposcope to look at the cervix. This tool uses a bright light and magnifying lens to make cervical tissue easier to see.

Biopsy - The doctor removes a sample of tissue and a pathologist checks the tissue under a microscope for abnormal cells.

There are several types of biopsies:

Punch Biopsy - A sharp tool is used to pinch off samples of tissue from the cervix.

LEEP - An electric wire loop is used to slice a thin, round piece of cervical tissue.

Endocervical Curettage - A curette, or small, spoon-like device, is used to scrape a sample of tissue.

Conization - The sample of tissue removed is cone-shaped so the pathologist can see if abnormal cells are in the tissue below the surface of the cervix.

Once the results from the test or procedure are returned you will be able to make thoughtful decisions. Please see Newly Diagnosed  for information on being patient active, treatment decisions, partnering with your healthcare team and finding support. 

Receiving a cancer diagnosis is difficult. Please see Caregivers and/or Online Support for more information on how the Cancer Support Community can offer support.

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