reviewed 12/5/2019

Prevent cervical cancer

Different steps for different ages

Cervical cancer was once the leading cause of cancer death for women in the U.S. But now women can take steps throughout their lives to prevent cervical cancer, starting in their preteen years.

9 to 20 years:

Get the HPV vaccine. The human papillomavirus (HPV) is the main cause of cervical cancer. The virus infects the genitals and is transmitted through skin-to-skin contact.

The vaccine is recommended for girls at age 11 or 12—before they are likely to encounter the virus. However, the vaccine can be given to girls as young as 9 and women as old as 26.

21–29 years:

Get Pap tests regularly. Women should have their 1st Pap test when they are 21 years old to screen for early signs of cervical cancer. If the results are normal, women should repeat the test every 3 years for the rest of their 20s.

Get the HPV vaccine. Women up to age 26 can get the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine if they have not already.

30–65 years

Follow a routine screening plan. Starting at age 30, women can switch to screening with both a Pap test and a human papillomavirus (HPV) test every 5 years.

Or they can continue their Pap test-only screening every 3 years.

66+ years:

Get screenings if needed. Women older than 65 who have had regular screenings with normal results over the past 10 years can stop screening.

Women who have a history of pre-cancers should continue screening for at least 20 years after the abnormality was found.

Keep learning about cervical cancer

Sources: American Cancer Society; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; U.S. Preventive Services Task Force

Related stories