When cancer starts in the cervix, it is called cervical cancer. The cervix connects the vagina (birth canal) to the upper uterus. The uterus (womb) is where the baby grows when a woman is pregnant. All women are at risk for cervical cancer. It occurs most often in women age 30 and older. Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the main cause of cervical cancer. HPV is a common virus that is passed from one person to another during sex.
According to Center for Disease Control (CDC), at least half of sexually active people will have HPV at some point in their lives, but few women will get cervical cancer. Cervical cancer is highly preventable, because screening tests and a vaccine are available to you to prevent HPV infections. With early detection, HPV is very treatable and associated with long survival and improved quality of life. Two test screenings are available and can help prevent cervical cancer or find it early:
- PAP test (or pap smear) looks for pre-cancer, cell changes on the cervix that might become cervical cancer if they are not treated appropriately.
- The HPV test looks for the virus (human papillomavirus) that can cause cell changes.
If you are 21-29 years old, you should start getting a pap test at 21. If your test is normal, your doctor may tell you that you can wait 3 years until your next pap test. If you are 30-65 years old, talk to your doctor about which test option/combo is right for you. Your physician should recommend an HPV test along with the Pap test. This is called co-testing. If both of your results are normal, the doctor may tell you to wait for 5 years until your next screening. (Note: HPV reflex testing does not count for the 5 year timeframe). If you are older than 65, the doctor may tell you that you don’t need to be screened anymore, especially if you have had normal screening test results for several years, or if you have had your cervix removed as part a total hysterectomy.
Your health is important to us, which is why we encourage you to get key preventive services. Seeing your primary care provider (PCP) every year helps you keep up on appropriate tests and screenings and reminds you to make your health a top priority.
Learn more information about cervical cancer by visiting WCIA.