Cervical Cancer

This year, an estimated 12,820 women will be diagnosed with cervical cancer and each year, more than 12,000 women are diagnosed with invasive cervical cancer and (cancer that has spread from the surface of the cervix to tissue deeper in the cervix or to other body parts) and more than 4,200 will die from the disease.

Cervical cancer used to be one of the most common causes of cancer death in women in the United States. Since the introduction of the Pap test (also called a Pap smear) more than 50 years ago, the rate of death from cervical cancer has decreased dramatically.

Risk Factors

You might be at an increased risk for cervical cancer if you are a woman who:

  • Has the human papillomavirus (HPV), a common sexually transmitted virus
  • Began having sex at an early age
  • Has had multiple sexual partners
  • Does not have a regular Pap test
  • Smokes or uses tobacco
  • Has used birth control pills for a long time
  • Has a weakened immune system, such as those who have human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)
  • Is overweight or obese
  • Has a close relative (sister or mother) who has had cervical cancer
  • Has been exposed to diethylstilbestrol (DES) before birth


Don’t wait for symptoms to appear. Get screened according to guidelines. If you do notice any of the following symptoms, talk with your health care professional.

  • Increased or unusual discharge from the vagina
  • Blood spots or light bleeding at times other than during a normal period
  • Menstrual bleeding that lasts longer and is heavier than usual
  • Bleeding or pain during or after sex
  • Bleeding after menopause



  • Avoid infection with HPV by abstaining from sex or, if you do have sex, using condoms the right way every time. Condoms cannot give complete protection against HPV because the virus can infect areas that are not covered by a condom
  • 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 three-part vaccine is recommended for girls and boys who are age 11 to 12. Girls may also be vaccinated at age 9 or 10 or 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.
  • Don’t smoke. If you do smoke, quit.

For more information about HPV and cervical cancer, click on Viruses & Cancer

Early Detection

  • Beginning at age 21 until age 29, have a Pap test every three years
  • Beginning at age 30 until age 65, have a Pap test and an HPV test every five years. This is the preferred approach, but it is also ok to continue having a Pap test alone every three years.
  • If you are at high risk, were exposed to DES before birth or have a weakened immune system, talk to your health care professional about getting screened more often.

If you have had a total hysterectomy, you do not need to continue screening unless the surgery was done as a treatment for cervical cancer or pre-cancer. If you had a hysterectomy that left behind the cervix, continue to follow the guidelines above.

For women over 65:

  • If you are a woman over age 65 and have had regular cervical cancer testing with normal results, you do not need to continue screening for cervical cancer.
  • If you a history of cervical cancer, you should continue to be tested for at least 20 years after diagnosis, even if testing continues past age 65.

Treatment Options

Cervical cancer treatment depends on the type of tumor cells, the stage of the cancer and your medical condition. The most common forms of treatment are surgery, radiation and chemotherapy, used alone or in combination.

Additional Resources

Fact Sheet
Cervical Cancer Factsheet (Eng)
Download the PDF (157kb)
Cervical Cancer Factsheet (Spn)
Download the PDF (157kb)
Guide to Prevent Cancer
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PSA Video
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