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What To Know About Cervical Cancer

March 29, 2024
What To Know About Cervical Cancer

Cervical cancer is one of the most preventable types of gynecological cancer and — thanks to the Pap test and HPV vaccine — it’s now a lot less common than it used to be.

What Is Cervical Cancer?

Cervical cancer is a type of cancer that starts in the cells of the cervix. The cervix is the lower part of the uterus that connects to the vagina.

What Causes Cervical Cancer?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, almost all cervical cancers are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV is a common virus that is passed from one person to the next during sex.

Risk Factors For Developing Cervical Cancer

Every woman is at risk of cervical cancer, but most women who develop the disease are between ages 20 and 50. The most common risk factors for cervical cancer include HPV infection, multiple sexual partners, smoking, family history, not getting screened, and having a weakened immune system.

Symptoms Of Cervical Cancer

You may not have any symptoms in the early stages of cervical cancer. That’s why regular screenings are important. However, as the cancer grows, you might experience symptoms such as:

  • Bleeding from the vagina after sex, between periods, or after menopause.
  • Pain during sex.
  • Discharge from the vagina that isn’t normal.

How To Prevent Cervical Cancer

To reduce your risk and even prevent cervical cancer you should consider:

  • Getting the HPV vaccine, which is suggested between the ages of 9 and 26.
  • Having a regular Pap test, also called a Pap smear, with HPV test.
  • Practicing safe sex.
  • Keeping a healthy lifestyle, which includes eating nutritious foods, being active, and not smoking.

When Should You Be Screened?

You should be screened for cervical cancer even if you’re not sexually active or don't have noticeable symptoms. Cervical cancer screening guidelines for women are based on age:

  • Ages 21 to 29: Pap test every three years.
  • Ages 30 to 64 with normal Pap results: Pap and HPV tests every five years.

What To Expect With The Screenings

Screenings for cervical cancer are easy to get and covered by most health plans. Pap tests help detect changes in the cervix that may precede or indicate cancer. The HPV test detects the presence of HPV.

Both tests are a quick swab of the cervix. Slight discomfort is normal. Your primary care doctor or OB-GYN can do the Pap test for cervical cancer during your annual physical or well-woman visit. You also have the option of using an at-home test kit to screen for HPV. Talk to your doctor about what screening is right for you.

Protect Yourself Against Cervical Cancer

With regular testing, vaccination, and healthy lifestyle choices, cervical cancer can be prevented and caught early, when it’s easier to treat.

To find a doctor in your plan’s network, select Find Care from the Care menu in the Sydney℠ Health app or at

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