Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine.
Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine

Cervical Cancer Screening

Screening for Cervical Cancer
Years ago, cervical cancer was the leading cause of cancer death for women in the United States. However, in the past 40 years, both the number of cases and the number of deaths from cervical cancer have decreased dramatically, mainly due to women being screened through regular Pap tests.

Risk Factors for Cervical Cancer
Pap Test

Risk Factors for Cervical Cancer
Cervical cancer is almost always caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV), a sexually transmitted infection. While vaccines are available to protect against the types of HPV that cause most cervical cancers, the only certain way of avoiding the virus is through sexual abstinence. You can reduce your risk by limiting your number of sex partners or being in a faithful relationship with one partner who has had few or no past sex partners.

Pap Test
A Pap test (also called a Pap smear) should be a part of your routine annual well-woman exam beginning in your early 20s. Pap tests can find the earliest signs of cervical cancer as well as infections and abnormal cervical cells that can turn into cancer cells. Treating these early signs can prevent most cases of cervical cancer from developing.

  1. When you arrive for your Pap test, you’ll be asked to undress from the waist down and given a sheet to cover your lower body.
  2. Then you’ll lie down on the examination table and place your feet in stirrups to hold them in place (stirrups are often cold, so you may want to wear a warm pair of socks).
  3. Your doctor will lubricate your vagina and insert a tool called a speculum that will spread the opening and allow access to the cervix.
  4. He or she will then take a small brush or cotton swab and use it to take sample cells by gently rubbing the cervix.
  5. The cells are then transferred to a slide or tube so they can be sent to the lab for analysis.
  6. Once the cell sample is taken, your doctor will gently remove the speculum and you’ll be done with your Pap test.


Some women experience mild discomfort, similar to menstrual cramps, during the Pap test, but this usually goes away once the exam is finished. If you experience any pain during or after the test, let your doctor know immediately.

To learn more about cervical cancer screening at the Methodist Cancer Center, please call us at 713-790-2700.

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