No woman should die of cervical cancer. You can help prevent cervical cancer by getting screened regularly, starting at age 21.
Cervical cancer is highly preventable with regular screening tests and appropriate follow-up care. It also can be cured when found early and treated.
Cervical cancer is almost always caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). Vaccines are available to protect against the types of HPV that most often cause cervical cancer.
HPV is very common in the United States and is passed from one person to another during sex. It is so common that nearly all sexually active men and women get it at some point in their lives, but few women will get cervical cancer. Talk to your health care provider about whether the HPV test is right for you.
Two tests can help prevent cervical cancer or find it early—
The Pap test (or Pap smear) looks for precancers, which are cell changes on the cervix that might become cervical cancer if they are not treated appropriately.
The HPV test looks for the virus that can cause these cell changes.
The Pap test is recommended for women between ages 21 and 65, and can be done in a doctor’s office or clinic. Women should start getting Pap tests regularly at age 21. If your Pap test results are normal, your doctor may say you can wait three years until your next Pap test. If you are 30 years old or older, you may choose to have an HPV test along with the Pap test. Both tests can be performed by your doctor at the same time. If your test results are normal, your chance of getting cervical cancer in the next few years is very low. Your doctor may then say you can wait as long as five years for your next screening.
If you have a low income or do not have health insurance, you may be able to get a free or low-cost Pap test through CDC’s National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program. Find out if you qualify.
Get the HPV vaccine if you are in the age group for which it’s recommended. The HPV vaccine protects against the types of HPV that most often cause cervical, vaginal, and vulvar cancers. It is recommended for preteens (both boys and girls) aged 11 to 12 years, but can be given as early as age 9 and until age 26.
Make an appointment today for your or your child’s vaccination. If you don’t have insurance, or your insurance does not cover vaccines, CDC’s Vaccines for Children program may be able to help.
CDC’s Inside Knowledge: Get the Facts About Gynecologic Cancer campaign has many resources for women. Check out the Inside Knowledge symptoms diary, cervical cancer fact sheet, and survivor stories.
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