Prevent Cervical Cancer

cervical cancer awareness

Cervical cancer is the fourth most common cancer in women worldwide and  fourth in cancer-related deaths. In 2020, there were an estimated 604,000 diagnosed new cases of cervical cancer and 342,000 deaths worldwide. Learn about the appropriate screening tests and the HPV vaccine to help prevent cervical cancer.

All women are at risk for cervical cancer. However, data show it occurs most often in women over the age of 30. The primary cause of cervical cancer is human papillomavirus (HPV), an extremely common family of viruses that are transmitted through sexual contact. HPV causes almost all cervical cancers. In the United States, Hispanic, non-Hispanic American Indian and Alaska Native, and non-Hispanic Black women have higher rates of new cervical cancer cases than women of other races and ethnicities.  These higher rates may reflect differences in cervical cancer screening rates and outcomes that vary by socioeconomic status and access to quality care.

Cervical Cancer Prevention

young girl getting hpv vaccine

Prevent cervical cancer with the HPV vaccination

CDC leads efforts in preventing and detecting cancers early and improving the overall health of cancer survivors. For example, CDC’s Inside Knowledge About Gynecologic Cancer Campaign shares educational materials with communities and healthcare providers on the five types of gynecologic cancers: cervical, ovarian, uterine, vaginal, and vulvar.

When found early and managed effectively, cervical cancer is preventable, treatable, curable, and associated with long-term quality of life. CDC’s National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program (NBCCEDP) provides breast and cervical cancer screenings and diagnostic services to women who have low incomes and are uninsured or underinsured. Access to childhood immunizations through the Vaccine for Children (VFC) program can aid in increasing HPV vaccinations and help prevent future cases of cervical cancer.

Routine cancer screenings help prevent cervical cancer. The United States Preventive Services Task Force and the World Health Organization both recommend that women receive appropriate cervical cancer screenings. These screenings help to identify precancers that may lead to cervical cancer. In the United States, women aged 21– 65 years, who receive regular cervical cancer screenings are less likely to get cervical cancer and less likely to die from it. Women aged 21-29 years should only receive a Pap test to screen for cervical cancer. Women aged 30-65 years have three available options for cervical cancer screening: Pap testing alone, HPV testing alone, and HPV and Pap testing together. In general, women older than age 65 don’t need cervical cancer screening if their previous tests were negative and they have had three Pap tests, or two HPV tests (with or without the Pap test), in the preceding 10 years. However, there may be situations in which a health care provider may recommend continued Pap testing.

HPV vaccination is safe and effective. CDC recommends HPV vaccination at age 11 or 12 years (or can start at age 9 years) and for everyone through age 26 years, if not vaccinated already. Vaccination is also recommended for teens and young adults (15 – 26 years) who are not already vaccinated.

Working Together to Reduce Cervical Cancer

We all play a role in preventing cervical cancer. Learn how you can lower your risk and promote the prevention and early detection of cervical cancer.

What can you do?

What can parents do?

  • Vaccinate both young girls and boys with the HPV vaccine to prevent future cases of HPV-associated cancers.
  • Encourage children to receive the HPV vaccine at an early age.
  • Remind children to be screened for cervical cancer when they are aged 21 years or older.

What can healthcare professionals do?

woman consulting with medical professional

Recommendations for cervical cancer screening.

What can communities do?