All women are at risk for cervical cancer. It occurs most often in women over age 30. The human papillomavirus (HPV) is the main cause of cervical cancer. HPV is a common virus that is passed from one person to another during sex. Most sexually active people will have HPV at some point in their lives, but few women will get cervical cancer.
How to Protect Yourself
The most important thing you can do to help prevent cervical cancer is to have regular screening tests from age 21 to 64 years.
Find Out Early-Get Screened!
- See your doctor regularly for a Pap test that can find cervical cancer early.
- If your Pap test results are not normal you should make another appointment to see your doctor.
Two screening tests can help prevent or find cervical cancer early.
The Pap test (or Pap smear) looks for precancers, cell changes on the cervix that might become cervical cancer if they are not treated appropriately.
The HPV test (for women over 30) looks for the virus (human papillomavirus) that can cause these cell changes.
Both tests can be done at your doctor’s office or clinic. Most women don’t need a Pap test every year. If your test results are normal, you can wait 3 years for your next Pap test.
It is recommended that preteens (boys and girls) at ages 11-12 years get vaccinated. HPV vaccine can be given as early as age 9 and until age 26. For more information for parents, visit CDC-HPV.
It is important to note that even women who are vaccinated against HPV need to have regular Pap tests to screen for cervical cancer.
Know the Risk Factors
Almost all cervical cancer is caused by HPV (human papillomavirus), a common virus that can be passed during sex. HPV is so common that most people get it at some time in their lives. HPV usually causes no symptoms. It may be hard to tell that you have it. For most women, HPV will go away on its own, but if it does not, there is a chance that over time it may cause cervical cancer.