Cervical Cancer Get the Facts About Gynecologic Cancer
There are five main types of cancer that affect a woman’s reproductive
organs: cervical, ovarian, uterine, vaginal, and vulvar. As a group, they
are referred to as gynecologic (GY-neh-kuh-LAH-jik) cancer. (A sixth
type of gynecologic cancer is the very rare fallopian tube cancer.)
This fact sheet about cervical cancer is part of the Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Gynecologic Cancer
Awareness Campaign. The campaign helps women get the facts
about gynecologic cancer, providing important “inside knowledge”
about their bodies and health.
What is cervical cancer? Who gets cervical Are there tests that
cancer? can prevent cervical
Cancer is a disease in which cells
in the body grow out of control. cancer or find it early?
All women are at risk for cervical
Cancer is always named for the part cancer. It occurs most often in There are two tests that can
of the body where it starts, even if it women over age 30. In 2004,* help prevent cervical cancer or
spreads to other body parts later. 11,892 women in the United States find it early:
When cancer starts in the cervix, it is were told they had cervical cancer.† • The Pap test (or Pap smear)
called cervical cancer. The cervix is looks for precancers, cell
It is important to get tested for cervical
the lower, narrow end of the uterus. changes on the cervix that might
cancer because 6 out of 10 cervical
Also known as the womb, the uterus become cervical cancer if they
cancers occur in women who have
is where a baby grows when a are not treated.
never received a Pap test or have not
woman is pregnant. The cervix
been tested in the past five years. • The HPV test looks for the
connects the upper part of the
uterus to the vagina (the birth canal). virus that can cause these
The human papillomavirus (HPV), a
common virus that can be passed
Cervical cancer is the easiest female
from one person to another during The Pap test is recommended for all
cancer to prevent, with regular
screening tests and follow-up. It sex, is the main cause of cervical women. Talk with your doctor, nurse,
also is highly curable when found cancer. At least half of sexually or other health care professional
and treated early. active people will have HPV at some about whether the HPV test is right
point in their lives. for you. Getting a Pap test regularly
can find precancerous changes
Keep in mind, many people will that can be treated, so that cervical
Fallopian Tubes have an HPV infection at some time cancer is prevented. And a Pap test
Ovaries in their lives, but few women will get can find cervical cancer early, when
Uterus cervical cancer. treatment is most effective.
* The most recent year for which statistics
are currently available.
U.S. Cancer Statistics Working Group.
United States Cancer Statistics: 2004 Inside Knowledge is an initiative that
Vagina Incidence and Mortality. Atlanta: U.S. supports the Gynecologic Cancer
Department of Health and Human Services,
Vulva Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Education and Awareness Act of
and National Cancer Institute; 2007. 2005, or Johanna’s Law, which was
unanimously passed by the U.S.
House and Senate (109th Congress)
in December of 2006, and signed into
www.cdc.gov/cancer/knowledge/ 1-800-CDC-INFO law by President George W. Bush on
January 12, 2007.
When should I get tested What raises a woman’s What are the symptoms?
for cervical cancer? chance of getting Early on, cervical cancer usually
You should start getting regular
cervical cancer? does not cause signs and symptoms.
Advanced cervical cancer may
Pap tests at age 21, or within three Almost all cervical cancers are
cause bleeding or discharge from
caused by HPV. You are more likely
years of the first time you have the vagina that is not normal for
to get HPV if you started having
sex—whichever happens first. The sex at an early age, or if you or your you, such as bleeding after sex.
partner have had sex with several If you have any of these signs, talk to
Pap test is one of the most reliable
others. However, any woman who your doctor. They may be caused
and effective cancer screening by something else, but the only way
has ever had sex is at risk for HPV.
tests available. to know is to see your doctor.
There are many types of HPV.
In addition to the Pap test—the Usually HPV will go away on its What should I do if
main test for cervical cancer—the own, but if it does not, it may cause my doctor says I have
cervical cancer over time. Other
HPV test may be used for screening
things can increase your risk of cervical cancer?
women aged 30 years and older, cervical cancer. They include: If your doctor says that you have
or at any age for those who have cervical cancer, ask to be referred to
• Not having regular Pap tests.
unclear Pap test results. a gynecologic oncologist—a doctor
• Not following up with your doctor who has been trained to treat cancers
If you are 30 or older, and your if you had a Pap test result that is like this. This doctor will work with
screening tests are normal, your not normal. you to create a treatment plan.
chance of getting cervical cancer in • Having HIV, the virus that causes Where can I find free
the next few years is very low. For AIDS, or another condition that
makes it hard for your body to or low-cost Pap tests?
that reason, your doctor may tell
fight off health problems. If you have a low income, or do not
you that you will not need another have insurance, you may be able to
screening test for up to three years. • Smoking.
get a free or low-cost Pap test through
But you should still go to the doctor How can I prevent it? the National Breast and Cervical
regularly for a check-up that may Cancer Early Detection Program. To
• Get the HPV vaccine. It protects learn more, call 1-800-CDC-INFO or
include a pelvic exam. against the HPV types that most visit www.cdc.gov/cancer/nbccedp.
often cause cervical cancer and
It also is important for you to is given in a series of three shots.
continue getting a Pap test The vaccine is recommended
for girls 11 and 12 years of age.
Where can I find more
regularly—even if you think you information about
The vaccine also can be given to
are too old to have a child, or females aged 13 through 26 who cervical cancer?
are not having sex anymore. If did not get any or all of the shots
yet. (Note: The vaccine can be Centers for Disease Control and
you are older than 65 and have
given to girls 9 or 10 years of age.) Prevention: 1-800-CDC-INFO or
had normal Pap test results for www.cdc.gov/cancer
several years, or if you have had • See your doctor regularly for a
Pap test that can find cervical National Cancer Institute:
your cervix removed (during an 1-800-4-CANCER or www.cancer.gov
operation called a hysterectomy),
• Follow up with your doctor if your
your doctor may tell you it is okay
test results are not normal. * HPV infection can occur in both male and female
to stop getting regular Pap tests. genital areas that are covered or protected by
• Don’t smoke. a latex condom, as well as in areas that are not
covered. While the effect of condoms in preventing
• Use condoms during sex.* HPV infection is unknown, condom use has been
associated with a lower rate of cervical cancer.
• Limit your number of sexual
partners. CDC Publication #99-9123, Revised July 2008
Get the Facts About Gynecologic Cancer