Cervical Cancer

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Three women

Two screening tests can help prevent cervical cancer. The Pap test looks for cell changes on the cervix that might become cervical cancer if they are not treated, and the human papillomavirus (HPV) test looks for the virus that can cause these cell changes. HPV vaccines can protect women against the types of HPV that cause most cervical cancers. The most important thing you can do to help prevent cervical cancer is to get screening tests regularly starting at age 21.

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Key Facts

  • If you’re 30 years old or older, you have three options: you can get a Pap test only, an HPV test only, or both an HPV and a Pap test together. If your test results are normal, you can wait three years to be tested again if you had a Pap test only, or five years to be tested again if you had an HPV test only or both an HPV test and a Pap test together.
  • If your test results are not normal, talk to your doctor. Cervical cancer is highly curable when found and treated early.
  • HPV is the main cause of cervical cancer. Get kids vaccinated against HPV at age 11 to 12 to help prevent cervical and other kinds of cancer.
  • Early cervical cancer may not cause symptoms. Advanced cervical cancer may cause abnormal vaginal bleeding or discharge.

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Teenage girl getting vaccinated

Get Your Kids Vaccinated

HPV vaccination is recommended for preteens aged 11 to 12 years, but can be given starting at age 9. HPV vaccine also is recommended for everyone through age 26 years, if they are not vaccinated already. HPV vaccination is not recommended for everyone older than age 26 years. However, some adults age 27 through 45 years who are not already vaccinated may decide to get the HPV vaccine after speaking with their doctor.

Woman with gynecologist

Get Screened Regularly

The Pap test looks for abnormal cells on your cervix, so they can be treated before they turn into cancer. Women should start getting Pap tests at age 21. The HPV test looks for the virus that can cause these abnormal cells. Women who are 30 years old or older can get a Pap test only, an HPV test only, or both tests together.

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Cote de Pablo for Inside Knowledge PSA

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Knowledge is Power: Cervical Cancer

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Are You Listening? PSA

Are You Listening?

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Prevention Tips

  • The most important thing you can do to help prevent cervical cancer is to get screened regularly.
  • Get the HPV vaccine if you are in the age group for which it is recommended.
  • Use condoms during sex.
  • Limit your number of sexual partners.
  • Don’t smoke.

More at CDC.gov

Page last reviewed: December 9, 2019