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Cervical Cancer Screening and Prevention

Pap smear and Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Test

The Pap and HPV test can help prevent cervical cancer or find it early. The Pap test looks for pre-cancers (cell changes on the cervix) that might become cancer without appropriate treatment. The HPV test looks for the virus which can cause these cell changes.

Discuss the screening schedule that is right for you with your health care provider. Because we continue to learn more about this cancer, guidelines for screening continue to evolve. In general, women should start screening at age 21. The most current recommendation is:

  • Women age 21-29 should get a pap test every three years
  • Women age 30-65 should get a pap and HPV co-test every five years. A pap test alone every three years is also acceptable.


Women should stop screening at age >65. Specifically if they have:

  • No history of moderate to severe dysplasia or cancer
  • Either three negative pap tests in a row, or two negative pap-HPV co-tests in a row within the past 10 years, with the most recent test performed within the past five years


If the following apply to you, do not follow these guidelines. Instead, talk with your doctor about what is best for you.

  • History of cervical cancer
  • HIV-positive
  • Weakened immune system
  • Exposed to DES before birth

HPV vaccine

Legacy recommends that girls and boys get the HPV vaccine, as a way to prevent future cases of cervical cancer.