Cervical Cancer: What You Need to Know

If you are a woman who has her cervix, you are at risk for cervical cancer. Women who have had a total hysterectomy, which includes removing the cervix, are not at risk for cervical cancer.

Cervical cancer, one of the leading causes of death worldwide, occurs most often in women over the age of 30. Each year, approximately 12,000 women in the United States get cervical cancer.

  • • New diagnoses of cervical cancer decreased by more than 50 percent from 1975 – 2010. 
  • • About 12,820 women in the U.S. will receive a new diagnosis of cervical cancer in 2017. 
  • • An estimated 4,210 women will die from cervical cancer in 2017. 
  • • More than 46 percent of women diagnosed with cervical cancer are 35 – 54 years old.
  • 61 percent of women diagnosed with cervical cancer survive five years or more.

Resources and tools

Know the risks

There are a number of risk factors associated with cervical cancer ̶  the most common is exposure to the human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV affects 80 million men and women and is the most common sexually transmitted disease in the nation. The following factors increase your risk for cervical cancer:

  • • Exposure to HPV
  • • Smoking
  • • Not using condoms during sex
  • • Multiple sex partners
  • • Weakened immune system
  • • Obesity
  • • Lengthy birth control pill use
  • • Giving birth to three or more children
  • • Family history
  • • Poor diet


Cervical cancer is the easiest gynecologic cancer to prevent, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Deaths from cervical cancer have been declining steadily over the past 40 years. This is largely due to the Pap test, one of the most reliable and effective screening tests available. The HPV test and HPV vaccine also help prevent cervical cancer.

Women should start getting regular Pap tests at age 21 or when they become sexually active. Pap tests help detect precancerous changes on the cervix that can be simply and effectively treated to prevent cervical cancer. 

During the Pap test, cells are collected from the cervix to be microscopically examined. If your Pap test results are normal, your physician may say that don’t need another Pap test for three years. 

In women aged 30 years and over, the HPV test can be used to screen for cervical cancer along with the Pap test. It also is used to provide more information when women aged 21 years and older have unclear Pap test results.

If both test results are normal, your physician may say that you can wait up to five years for your next screening. Your physician can advise you on an appropriate screening schedule for the Pap and HPV tests, depending on your age and specific risk. 

The HPV vaccine protects against the types of HPV that most often cause cervical, vaginal and vulvar cancers. It is recommended for preteens (both boys and girls) aged 11 – 12, but can be given as early as age 9. The two-dose HPV vaccine protects preteens before they are exposed to the virus. In adults, even women who have received the HPV vaccine need to have regular Pap tests to screen for cervical cancer. 

Most invasive cervical cancers occur in women who have never had a Pap test or who have not had one in the past five years. When detected early, the five-year survival rate for women with stages 0 and IA cervical cancer is about 93 percent.