An estimated 12,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer in the United States each year. In most cases, cervical cancer can be prevented through early detection and treatment of Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). Two tests can help prevent cervical cancer or find it early:
- The Pap test (or Pap smear) helps find precancers, cell changes on the cervix that might become cervical cancer if they are not treated appropriately. Women should start getting the Pap test at age 21 years, and then every three years after that.
- The HPV test checks for the virus that can cause these cell changes on the cervix. It may be used to screen for cervical cancer, with the Pap test, in women aged 30 years and older. If both tests are negative, the risk for cervical cancer is very low and women can wait five years before another screening. HPV tests also may be used to provide more information when a Pap test has unclear results.
Currently, there is no routine screening test recommended for other HPV-related health effects, such as genital warts or other HPV-associated cancers (cancers of the vulva, vagina, anus, penis, and oropharnyx). The Pap test does not screen for cancers other than cervical cancer.