Here’s the Good News About Preventing Cervical Cancer

Anyone with a cervix is at risk for cervical cancer. While that sounds scary, scientific advances have helped us learn what causes the development of cervical cancer, how to screen for it, and more importantly, how to make informed decisions to prevent it.

Here’s the good news about preventing cervical cancer!

We know what causes cervical cancer.

Almost all cervical cancer is caused by the Human Papillomavirus (HPV). Keep in mind, not all HPV infections cause cervical cancer.

What is HPV?

Human Papillomavirus is a group of related viruses, which is commonly spread through sexual contact and can cause cancer. HPV infections are common and often there are no symptoms.

When an infection lasts for many years, it can change the infected cells over time, and this can become cervical cancer. There is currently no way to treat an HPV infection, so the best defense against cervical cancer is regular screening to detect abnormal cells and remove them before they become cancer.

We have the means to prevent cervical cancer.

Since we know HPV is the cause of most cervical cancer, HPV vaccination is a great step towards preventing cervical cancer! This means get your regular screenings and, male or female, talk to your doctor about getting vaccinated.

We have better screening tests.

Screening techniques have improved which means it is more likely to be caught and less frequent screenings are required.

Abnormal screening results do not mean you have cancer.

An abnormal cervical screening result means that cervical cell changes were discovered or that cells are infected with HPV. It does not mean you have cancer. Depending on the results, you may need follow-up visits, additional tests, or treatment. Your healthcare provider will advise you on the next steps.

Let’s talk screenings!

When it comes to testing, everyone’s medical history is different. The best approach is to talk to your healthcare provider about when to start screening, how often to be screened, and what screenings are best for you.

Types of screening tests include a Pap test (a.k.a. Pap smear or cervical cytology) in which cells are gently removed from the surface of the cervix to be checked for abnormalities and the HPV test in which a lab tests cells for HPV. When they are done at the same time, they are referred to as an HPV/Pap cotest.

According to the USPSTF (United States Preventive Services Task Force), general guidelines for screenings for women with normal test results include:

Age 21 – 29 years

  • First Pap test at age 21
  • Pap test every 3 years after

Age 30 – 65 years (One of the following as recommended by your healthcare provider)

  • HPV test every 5 years
  • HPV/Pap cotest every 5 years
  • Pap test every 3 years

Age 65+

Talk to your healthcare provider to see if a screening is still needed. If you have been screened regularly and had normal test results, they may advise that screening is no longer necessary.

The American Cancer Society recommends the following options:

  • HPV test every 5 years beginning at age 25
  • HPV/Pap cotest every 5 years
  • Pap test every 3 years

No matter what test you get, the important part is get screened regularly.

Please note, certain health conditions (such as having had cervical cancer, an abnormal screening, HIV, or a weakened immune system) or having had a hysterectomy can mean you are an exception to these guidelines. Talk with your healthcare provider about whether you need a different screening plan.

For more information about HPV and related cancers, please visit

For more information about Cervical Cancer, please visit



Information in this article was taken from the National Cancer Institute booklet:  “Understanding Cervical Changes: A Health Guide” as published in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services and NIH

NIH Publication No. 21-5199, September 2021


We want you to be well and to live your best life. The content in this blog is provided for the purposes to educate and entertain you: our very important reader. It is not intended as medical advice or as a substitute for medical advice from a trained healthcare professional.

If you have a medical condition or are under the care of a medical provider, please always seek the advice of a qualified medical professional before undertaking a new health care regimen. To that point, never disregard medical advice or delay treatment for a medical condition because of something you read on this site.

Listen to your care providers as they know you and your condition best. Thank you for reading!

The Team at BSDI

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