In 2020, an estimated 604,000 women were diagnosed with cervical cancer universally and about 342,000 women died from the disease. The leading cause of cervical cancer is persistent infection with high-risk types of human papillomavirus (HPV), an extremely common family of viruses that are spread through sexual contact. Vaccines exist that protect against high-risk HPV types, and screening programs can detect signs of disease at an early stage, allowing for successful treatment and management of the condition. Cervical cancer should be one of the most preventable and treatable forms of cancer.
- HPV vaccination is recommended for preteens aged 11 to 12 years but can be given starting at age 9.
- HPV vaccine also is recommended for everyone through age 26 years if they are not vaccinated already.
- HPV vaccination is not recommended for everyone older than age 26 years. However, some adults aged 27 through 45 years who are not already vaccinated may decide to get the HPV vaccine after speaking with their doctor about their risk for new HPV infections and the possible benefits of vaccination. HPV vaccination in this age range provides less benefit, as more people have already been exposed to HPV.
- HPV vaccination prevents new HPV infections but does not treat existing infections or diseases. Therefore, the HPV vaccine works best when given before any exposure to HPV. You should get screened for cervical cancer regularly, even if you received an HPV vaccine. To schedule, call 888-217-3904.
Early stages of cervical cancer may not cause signs or symptoms. Advanced cervical cancer may cause bleeding or discharge from the vagina that is not normal, such as bleeding after sex. If you have any of these signs, see your doctor right away. They may be caused by something other than cancer, but the only way to be sure is through examination.
Two types of screening tests can help find changes that could become precancer or cervical cancer.
- The Pap test (or Pap smear) looks for precancers, cell changes on the cervix that might become cervical cancer if they are not treated appropriately.
- The HPV test looks for the virus (HPV) that can cause these cell changes.
Both tests can be done in a doctor’s office or clinic. If you have a low income or do not have health insurance, you may be able to get free or low-cost screening tests through CDC’s National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program.