Cervical Cancer Prevention & Early Detection

Cervical cancer is a preventable disease and, if detected early, a cancer that can be successfully treated. Below are ways to prevent cervical cancer and detect the disease early.

Cervical Cancer Prevention

  • Avoid infection with HPV by practicing safer sex. (Condoms can’t give complete protection against HPV because the virus can infect areas that aren’t covered by a condom.)
  • Don’t smoke, or, if you do smoke, quit.

Cervical Cancer Early Detection

  • All women should begin cervical cancer testing at age 21. Women aged 21 to 29 should receive a Pap test every 3 years. HPV testing should not be used for screening in this age group unless used as a follow-up for an abnormal Pap test.
  • Women between the ages of 30 and 65 should have a Pap test plus 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. Women at high risk, exposed to DES before birth or with a weakened immune system may need to be screened more often.
  • Talk with your health care professional about the HPV vaccine. The HPV vaccine protects against the types of HPV that are most likely to cause cancer. It’s most effective if a person is vaccinated before becoming sexually active. The vaccine is recommended for girls who are age 11 to 12. Girls may also be vaccinated at age 9 or 10. Girls may get a “catch-up” vaccine up to age 18. Young women age 19 to 26 who have never been vaccinated may also get the vaccine.
  • Women over age 65 who have had regular cervical cancer testing with normal results should not be tested for cervical cancer. Women with a history of serious cervical pre-cancer should continue to be tested for at least 20 years after that diagnosis, even if testing continues past age 65.
  • Women who have had a hysterectomy should stop screening unless the surgery was done as a treatment for cervical cancer or pre-cancer. Women who have had a hysterectomy that left behind the cervix should continue to follow the guidelines above.