January is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month

January is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month. The American Cancer Society estimates that nearly 4,300 women in the United States will die annually due to cervical cancer – but did you know, prevention is possible?

Fortunately, rates of cervical cancer are decreasing. You have a role in continuing that decrease. In order to prevent cervical cancer, there are a few, very important steps you can take:

  • Get vaccinated against HPV
  • Have regular cervical cancer screenings starting at age 21
  • Return to your health care provider if your screening test results are abnormal

Early detection is associated with survival and quality of life.

Cervical cancer is almost always caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV is a common virus that can be passed from one person to another and cause certain cancers later in life. In an effort to prevent these cancers, it is recommended to have your child (at age 11-12) receive two doses of the HPV vaccine. Girls and boys have the best protection when they receive all doses, as recommended, before they are exposed to HPV. Girls ages 13-26 and boys ages 13-21 should get the vaccine if they have not already received it. Talk to your health care provider to see if the HPV vaccine is right for you and your family.

There are that can help prevent cervical cancer or find it early – the Pap test and the HPV test. The Pap test (or Pap smear) checks the cervix cells for abnormalities that could lead to cancer. The HPV test looks for the virus (human papillomavirus) that can cause cell changes on the cervix. Both tests can be done in a doctor’s office or clinic.

Which test is right for you?

Women ages 21-29 should get a Pap test every three years.

Women ages 30-65 should get:

  • Just a Pap test every three years,
  • Just an HPV test every five years, or
  • Both a Pap test and HPV test every five years.

Some women may need a different screening schedule because of their health history. You and your health care provider can decide together which screening approach and schedule is best for you.

If you have a low income or do not have health insurance, you may be able to get a free or low-cost cervical cancer screening through the HHS Women’s Way program. See if you are eligible at hhs.nd.gov/health/women/womens-way/eligible.

This Cervical Cancer Awareness Month, protect yourself and your family with preventive care. Schedule your cervical cancer screening appointment. Schedule your children for their HPV vaccination. Change statistics. Take steps to prevent cervical cancer.


Additional HHS Resources

Cervical Cancer Screening
HPV and Pap Tests