How can I help lower my chance of getting cervical cancer?
There are several things you can do that may reduce your chance of getting cervical cancer.
1.) Protect yourself from HPV.
- Talk to your doctor about getting the HPV vaccine, which protects against the types of HPV that most often cause cervical,
vaginal, and vulvar cancers.
- Use condoms during sex.
- Limit your number of sexual partners.
2) See a doctor regularly for a Pap test that looks for cervical precancers and cancer. Be sure to follow up with the doctor if your test results are not normal.
3) Don’t smoke. Smoking harms all of your body’s cells, including your cervical cells. If you smoke and have HPV, you have a higher chance of getting cervical cancer. If you smoke, ask a doctor for help quitting.
Are there ways to prevent cervical cancer or find it early?
Yes. The Pap test, HPV test, and HPV vaccine all help to prevent cervical cancer.
1) The Pap test is one of the most reliable and effective screening tests available. Getting a Pap test regularly is important because it can find precancerous changes on the cervix that can be simply and effectively
treated to prevent cervical cancer. A Pap test also can find cervical cancer early, when treatment is most effective.
The only cancer the Pap test screens for is cervical cancer. It does not screen for any other type of cancer.
Most cervical cancers occur among women who have never had a Pap test or have not had one in the last five years.
2) The HPV test looks for HPV—the virus that can cause cell changes on the cervix. For women aged 30 years and older, the HPV test can be used along with the Pap test (called co-testing) to screen for cervical
cancer. It also is used to provide more information when Pap test results for women aged 21 and older are unclear.
3) Two HPV vaccines are available to protect females against the types of HPV that cause most cervical cancers, and vaginal and vulvar
cancers. Both vaccines are recommended for 11- and 12-year-old girls, and for females 13 through 26 years of age who did not get any or all of the shots when they were younger. These vaccines also can be given to girls as young as 9 years of age. It is recommended that females get the same vaccine brand for all three doses, whenever possible. It is important to note that even women who are vaccinated against HPV need to have regular Pap tests to screen for cervical cancer.
When and how often should I get a Pap test?
All women should start getting regular Pap tests at age 21. How often you get a Pap test depends on many factors:
- If your Pap test results are normal, your doctor may tell you that you will not need another Pap test for three years.
- If you are 30 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 the results are normal, your chance of getting cervical cancer in the next few years is very low. Your doctor may then tell you that you can wait up to five years for your next screening.
For women aged 21-65, it is important to continue getting a Pap test as directed by your doctor—even if you think you are too old to have a child or are not having sex anymore. However, your doctor may tell you that you do not need to have a Pap test if either of these is true for you:
- You are older than 65 and have had normal Pap test results for several years.
- You have had your cervix removed as part of a total hysterectomy for noncancerous conditions, like fibroids.