Prevention & Screening

Of all the gynecologic cancers, only cervical cancer has proven prevention and screening tools

HPV Vaccination

Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the US according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It’s so common that nearly all sexually active men and women will have it at some point in their lives. In most cases, HPV goes away on its own and does not cause any health problems. But when HPV does not go away, it can cause genital warts and cancer. Almost all cervical cancer is caused by HPV. The virus has also been linked to cancers of the vulva, vagina, penis, anus, and throat.

The human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine is available for girls and women to prevent cervical cancer. It is recommended for girls ages 11-12, but can be given beginning at age 9. It also can be given to girls and women age 13-26 who did not get any or all of the shots when they were younger. Ideally, girls should get three doses of this vaccine before their first sexual contact. The HPV vaccine protects against the types of HPV that most often cause cervical cancer.

In 2016, National Cancer Institute designated Cancer Centers released a statement "encouraging all parents to have their daughters complete the 3-dose HPV vaccine series before their 13th birthday. Learn more by reading the consensus statement.

Screening Guidelines

One of the most common and trustworthy tests used to detect precancerous and cancerous gynecologic conditions is the Pap Test. Removal of the abnormal cells prevents cervical cancer. Pap tests can also find cervical cancer early, when the chance of being cured is very high.

  • All women should begin cervical cancer screening at age 21.
  • Women between the ages of 21 and 29 should have a Pap test every 3 years. They should not be tested for HPV unless it is needed after an abnormal Pap test result.
  • Women between the ages of 30 and 65 should have both a Pap test and an HPV test every 5 years. This is the preferred approach, but it is also OK to have a Pap test alone every 3 years.v
  • Women over age 65 who have had regular screenings with normal results should not be screened for cervical cancer. Women who have been diagnosed with cervical pre-cancer should continue to be screened.
  • Women who have had their uterus and cervix removed in a hysterectomy and have no history of cervical cancer or pre-cancer should not be screened.
  • Women who have had the HPV vaccine should still follow the screening recommendations for their age group.
  • Women who are at high risk for cervical cancer may need to be screened more often. Women at high risk might include those with HIV infection, organ transplant, or exposure to the drug DES. They should talk with their doctor or nurse.

Still have questions?

The nurses at Cancer AnswerLine™ have answers. Call 1-800-865-1125 and you'll get a personal response from one of our registered nurses, who have years of experience in caring for people with cancer.


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