HEALTHMATTERSBack to HealthMatters main
Cervical cancer prevention
Cervical cancer can be deadly. But you can take steps to prevent it.
Cervical cancer was once the leading cause of cancer death for women in the U.S. But women can take steps throughout their lives to prevent the disease, starting in their preteen years.
Keep reading to learn about cervical cancer prevention recommendations for different age groups.
SELECT AN AGE RANGE
Get the HPV vaccine
The human papillomavirus (HPV) is the main cause of cervical cancer. HPV spreads through sexual activity.
Ideally, girls should get the HPV vaccine at age 11 or 12—before they are likely to be exposed to the virus. But the vaccine can be given to girls as young as 9 and women as old as 45.
Get screened regularly
The preferred screening strategy is to get a primary HPV test every five years. A primary HPV test is one that's approved to be done by itself for screening, without an additional Pap test.
But primary HPV tests aren't widely available yet in the U.S. So these two screening options are also OK:
- A co-test every five years that combines an HPV test that isn't primary with a Pap test.
- A Pap test alone every three years.
Get the HPV vaccine if needed
Women up to age 45 can get the HPV vaccine if they haven't already. Ask your doctor if the vaccine is right for you.
Get screenings if needed
You can stop screenings if:
- You're older than 65 and have had 10 years of regular screening with normal results.
- Your cervix was removed—for example, in a total hysterectomy—for reasons other than cervical cancer or a serious pre-cancer.
What are the early symptoms of cervical cancer?
Find out by taking our cervical cancer quiz.