Skip to content

Women's Health

Cervical Cancer: A Shot of Prevention

Regular Pap tests and the HPV vaccine - do you really need both?
Font Size
A
A
A
By
WebMD Feature

January is Cervical Cancer Health Awareness Month -- wouldn't now be a great time to make that appointment for a Pap test?

Oh, don't be that way! Think of a Pap test (also called a Pap smear) as freedom from worry. It's something you can do right now to keep your body free of cervical cancer. Who doesn't want that?

Preventing Cervical Cancer

An estimated 12,200 cases of invasive cervical cancer are expected to be diagnosed in 2010. These rates have decreased over the past several decades in white women and African-American women. An estimated 4,200 cervical cancer deaths are expected in 2010.  Cancer of the cervix (the lowest part of your uterus, at the top of the vagina) is preventable and curable -- if caught early.

And a Pap test -- where a few cells are collected from the cervix and then examined under a microscope -- is key to catching cervical cancers in their precancerous and earliest stages. Since the 1950s, the rates of death from cervical cancer has declined by 74%. The reason for the decline is mostly due to Pap test screening.

The best time to start getting Pap smears is by the time you're 21, and it should be done every two years. Women aged 30 and older that have had three consecutively normal tests can start screening once every three years. Talk to your doctor to know for sure.

If you are 30 or older, you also can be tested for the cancer-causing types of HPV at the same time you have your Pap test.

Taking a Shot at Cervical Cancer

Some women can take the power of cervical cancer prevention even further, by getting immunized with the HPV vaccine.

HPVs (human papillomavirus), of which there are more than 100 types, are the most common sexually transmitted infections in the U.S. The vaccine protects women against four HPV types that cause 70% of all cervical cancers.

The HPV vaccine is most effective before a person is infected with an HPV, which is why the vaccine has been recommended for girls as young as nine. It's also approved for women up to the age of 26, and tests are under way to see if it's effective for women over that age. The vaccine cannot protect against established infection, nor does it protect against all types of HPV.

Today on WebMD

hands on abdomen
Test your knowledge.
womans hand on abdomen
Are you ready for baby?
 
birth control pills
Learn about your options.
insomnia
Is it menopause or something else?
 
woman in bathtub
Slideshow
Doctor discussing screening with patient
VIDEO
 
bp app on smartwatch and phone
Slideshow
iud
Expert views
 

Send yourself a link to download the app.

Loading ...

Please wait...

This feature is temporarily unavailable. Please try again later.

Thanks!

Now check your email account on your mobile phone to download your new app.

Blood pressure check
Slideshow
hot water bottle on stomach
Quiz
 
question
Assessment
Attractive young woman standing in front of mirror
Quiz