The Pap test and HPV vaccine can help prevent cervical cancer.
Cancer is a disease in which cells in the body grow out of control. When cancer starts in the cervix, it is called cervical cancer. The cervix is the lower, narrow end of the uterus. Also known as the womb, the uterus is where a baby grows when a woman is pregnant.
All women are at risk for cervical cancer, but it is rare in women younger than 30 years of age. The median age at diagnosis (the age at which half of all reported cases were older and half were younger) is 47 years. In 2007 (the most recent year for which statistics are available), 12,280 women in the United States were told they had cervical cancer, and 4,021 died from the disease.
The graph shows how many women out of 100,000 were diagnosed with cervical cancer in 2007 (the incidence rate) and how many women out of 100,000 died from cervical cancer the same year (the death rate). The cervical cancer incidence and death rates are grouped by race and ethnicity.
Hispanic women had the highest incidence rate of cervical cancer, followed by black, white, American Indian/Alaska Native, and Asian/Pacific Islander women. Overall, 7.9 out of every 100,000 women were diagnosed with cervical cancer in 2007.
Black women had the highest death rate from cervical cancer, followed by Hispanic, American Indian/Alaska Native, white, and Asian/Pacific Islander women. Overall, 2.4 out of every 100,000 women died from cervical cancer in 2007.
Virtually all cervical cancers are caused by human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV is a common virus that is spread easily by skin-to-skin contact during sexual activity with another person. There are many types of HPV. Some HPV types can cause changes on a woman’s cervix that can lead to cervical cancer over time, while other types can cause genital warts.
HPV is so common that most people get it at some time in their lives but, especially early after infection, HPV usually causes no symptoms, so you can’t tell that you have it. For most women, HPV will go away on its own; however, if it does not, there is a chance that, over time, it may cause cervical cancer or other cancers. There is no way to know which people who get HPV will go on to develop cancer or other health problems.
Cervical cancer is highly preventable because screening tests (to find problems with the cervix soon after they start) and HPV vaccines (to prevent HPV infections) are available. When cervical cancer is found early, it is highly treatable and associated with long survival and good quality of life. Women who have been vaccinated still need regular cervical cancer screening (Pap tests).
CDC recommends that all girls who are 11 or 12 years old get three doses (shots) of HPV vaccine to protect against cervical cancer and precancer. Girls and young women aged 13 through 26 years should get all three doses of an HPV vaccine if they have not received all doses yet. The vaccine can be given to girls beginning at age 9 years. Boys and young men aged 9 through 26 years also can be vaccinated against HPV for the prevention of genital warts.
What If I Can’t Afford Preventive Care for Me or My Child?
For Pap Tests: If you have a low income or do not have health insurance, you may be able to get a free or low-cost Pap test through the National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program. To find out if you qualify, call your local program or 1-800-CDC-INFO.
For Vaccination: If you don’t have insurance for your child, or if your insurance does not cover all recommended vaccines, the Vaccines for Children (VFC) program might be able to help.