You cannot prevent an
abnormal Pap test, but you can reduce your risk
Have regular Pap test screening
The Pap test is
the most effective screening test to prevent the development of
cervical cancer. Pap tests done at regular intervals
almost always detect cervical cell changes before the changes become cancerous.
Regular screening for and treatment of cervical cell abnormalities can prevent
the abnormal cell changes from developing into cancer.
Did You Know?
Under the Affordable Care Act, many health insurance plans will provide free women’s preventive services, including mammograms, birth control and well-woman visits. Learn more.
The recommended Pap test schedule is based on your age and on things that increase your risk. For most women, it is best to have a Pap test every 1 to 3 years. Talk to your doctor about when to have your first Pap test and how often to have this test.
Women who smoke are at higher risk
for developing cervical cell changes that cause an abnormal Pap test. The
reason for this is not fully understood. Quitting smoking may decrease this
risk. Not smoking has many other health benefits. For example, nonsmokers have
a lower risk of other cancers and heart disease. For more information, see the
Reduce your risk of a sexually transmitted infection (STI)
Sexually transmitted infections (STIs), especially
HPV infection, often cause abnormal Pap tests and can
lead to other serious health problems. Preventing an STI is easier than
treating an infection after it occurs.
Talk with your partner about STIs before
beginning a sexual relationship. Find out whether he or she is at risk for an
STI. Remember that it is quite possible to be infected with an STI without
knowing it. Some STIs, such as
HIV, can take up to 6 months before they are detected
in the blood. Consider HIV testing if you or your partner are at risk for
Avoid sexual contact if you have symptoms
of an STI or are being treated for an STI.
Avoid all intimate
sexual contact with anyone who has symptoms of an STI or who may have been
exposed to an STI.
female condoms to reduce the risk of getting an STI.
Using male condoms when you have sex has been shown to reduce your risk of
getting HPV.2 Female condoms may help also, although
there has been less study of this type of protection.
Abstaining from sexual intercourse is the only way to
completely prevent any exposure to STIs.
Your risk for an STI increases if you have several sex
partners at the same time or if your sex partner has more than one
If you are age 26 or younger, get the HPV shot. The vaccines Cervarix(What is a PDF document?) and Gardasil(What is a PDF document?) protect against two types of HPV that cause cervical cancer. Gardasil also protects against two types of HPV that cause genital warts. Three shots are given over 6 months. The series of shots is recommended for girls age 11 or 12 and can be given to females ages 9 to 26. You can get either vaccine. For more information,
see the topic
For more information on
getting your daughter vaccinated, see: