Cervical cancer is a highly preventable cancer. In 2018, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced a global call for action to eliminate cervical cancer within the next century, with achievable goals to be reached by 2030.
Cervical cancer is most often caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV), which can be prevented with the HPV vaccine. All children should receive the HPV vaccine between ages 9-12. Anyone with a cervix, regardless of vaccination status, should be screened for cervical cancer per recommendations.
If you are of average risk, follow these screening guidelines:
If you are at high risk for cervical cancer because of a suppressed immune system (for example, from HIV infection, organ or stem-cell transplant or long-term steroid use), because you were exposed to DES in utero or because you have had cervical cancer or certain precancerous conditions, you may need to be screened more often. Follow the recommendations of your health care provider.
After age 65, talk with your health care provider about whether you still need to be screened.
Source: The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force
If you have a cervix, you are at increased risk if you:
HPV vaccination protects against types of HPV that are most likely to cause cancer (HPV is the cause of more than 90% of cervical cancer cases). It is most effective when given to young people before they are exposed to HPV.
Young people ages 9–12 should get vaccinated against HPV. “Catch-up” vaccination is also recommended for teens and young adults up to age 26. If the HPV vaccine is given as recommended, it can prevent more than 90% of HPV-related cancers, including more than 90% of cervical cancers.
The vaccine is given in two or three shots depending on the age of initial vaccination.
Precancerous conditions of the cervix do not usually cause symptoms and are detected only with a pelvic exam and a Pap or HPV test.
Talk with your health care provider right away if you experience any of the following symptoms:
Cervical cancer usually does not show symptoms until later stages. Pelvic exams and Pap or HPV tests are key to early detection.
Cervical cancer is treated through surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. These therapies may be given alone or in combination with one another.
Treatment depends on the stage of the cancer, the type of tumor cells and your medical condition.