Cervical Cancer Prevention
The most effective screening tool for cervical cancer is a Pap test, in which a cell sample is reviewed with a microscope. Women in their 20s should have a Pap test to screen for cervical cancer every three years, regardless of whether they have received the HPV vaccine. Women age 30-65 should have a Pap test and DNA HPV test every five years or only a Pap test every three years to screen for cervical cancer. The DNA HPV test, given in conjunction with a routine Pap test, may identify existing HPV infections that could lead to cervical cancer. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends another option to screen with the high-risk human papillomavirus (hrHPV) test only every five years. Physicians may recommend that women have more frequent screening if certain risk factors are present. Women over 65 should discuss previous test results and the risks and benefits of screening with their physician. Those women who have had a previous pelvic malignancy should consult with their physician regarding type and frequency of follow-up exams.
Girls and young women may also receive vaccinations to prevent the types of HPV infections that cause cancer. Three vaccines are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for use in females age 9-26, depending on the vaccine. In October 2018, the Gardasil 9 vaccine was approved for expanded use, up to age 45. The vaccines may reduce a woman’s risk of cervical cancer, but HPV vaccines cannot protect against existing infections.
Cervical Cancer Treatment
Women with cervical cancer should consult with a medical oncologist, radiation oncologist, or gynecologic oncologist to determine their specific treatment needs. There are several treatment options for cervical cancer including chemotherapy, radiation therapy, targeted therapy, immunotherapy, and surgery. Each method may be used alone, or in combination with other treatments.