Cervical Cancer Home > Cervical Cancer Prevention

If you are trying to prevent cervical cancer, it's important to start with regular screenings, which will look for cancer before any symptoms develop. Prevention also involves learning about risk factors for this type of cancer. These risk factors include HPV infection, infrequent Pap tests, and a weakened immune system.

An Introduction to Preventing Cervical Cancer

Cervical cancer prevention begins with cervical cancer screening and learning about cervical cancer risk factors.

Screening as Cervical Cancer Prevention

Cervical cancer prevention begins with regular screenings, which will look for cancer before a person has any symptoms. Screenings can help find cervical cancer before it has developed, or it can help find cancer that is at an early stage. When abnormal tissue or cancer is found early, it may be easier to treat. By the time symptoms of cervical cancer appear, cancer may have begun to spread.
The number of women who are diagnosed each year has been decreasing for the past several decades. Doctors believe that this decrease is directly related to the success of cervical cancer screening. In order for women to reduce their risk of cervical cancer, doctors recommend that women have regular Pap tests. A Pap test, also known as a Pap smear or a cervical smear, is a simple test that is used to look at the cervical cells.
Women should talk with their doctor about when they should begin having Pap tests, how often they should have them, and when they can stop having them. This is especially important for women at higher-than-average risk of cervical cancer.
(Click Cervical Cancer Screening for more information.)

Know the Risk Factors

Doctors cannot always explain why some people will get cancer and other people will not. However, scientists have studied general patterns of cancer in the population to learn about what may increase a person's chance of developing cancer. Anything that increases a person's chance of developing cancer is called a risk factor; anything that decreases a person's chance of developing cancer is called a protective factor.
Specific risk factors for cervical cancer include:
  • Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection
  • Lack of regular Pap tests
  • Weakened immune system
  • Age
  • Sexual history
  • Smoking cigarettes
  • Taking birth control pills for a long time
  • Having many children
  • Diethylstilbestrol (DES).
Many cervical cancer risk factors can be avoided. However, it is important to remember that avoiding risk factors does not guarantee that you will not get cancer. Talk to your doctor about the things you can do to help prevent cervical cancer.
(Click Cervical Cancer Risk Factors for more information.)
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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