How common are abnormal Pap tests?

Of all the women in the United States who have a Pap test each year, about 7% will have an abnormal result that suggests they should have further evaluation.1 Only a small percentage of these abnormal Pap test results indicate changes that are likely to progress to cervical cancer.

Most women who have abnormal cervical cell changes that progress to cervical cancer have never had a Pap test or have not had one in the past 3 to 5 years. The lack of screening increases the risk of cancer.


  1. National Cancer Institute (2008). Cervical Cancer PDQ: Screening—Health Professional Version. Available online:

Last Updated: January 5, 2009

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