WHAT IS CERVICAL CANCER?
There are five main types of cancer that affect a woman’s reproductive organs: cervical, ovarian, uterine, vaginal, and vulvar. When cancer starts in the cervix, it is called cervical cancer. The cervix is the lower, narrow end of the uterus. The human papillomavirus (HPV) is the main cause of cervical cancer.
Cervical cancer is the easiest gynecologic cancer to prevent with regular screening tests and follow-up. It also is highly curable when found and treated early.
WHO GETS CERVICAL CANCER?
All women are at risk for cervical cancer. It occurs most often in women over age 30. Each year, approximately 12,000 women in the United States get cervical cancer. Almost all cervical cancers are caused by HPV. You are more likely to get HPV if you started having sex at an early age, or if you or your partner have had sex with several others. However, any woman who has ever had sex is at risk for HPV.
HOW CAN I PREVENT CERVICAL CANCER?
• See your doctor regularly for a Pap and/or HPV test.
• Follow up with your doctor if your cervical cancer screening test results are not normal.
• Get the HPV vaccine.
• Don’t smoke.
• Use condoms during sex.
• Limit your number of sexual partners.
WHEN SHOULD I GET TESTED FOR CERVICAL CANCER?
The Pap test is one of the most reliable and effective cancer screening tests available. The Pap test is recommended for all women between the ages of 21 and 29 years old. If you are 30 years old or older, you may choose to have a Pap test, or an HPV test, or both tests together.
For women aged 21-65, it is important to continue getting a Pap and/or HPV test as directed by your doctor—even if you think you are too old to have a child or are not having sex anymore.