Cervical cancer is the second most common type of cancer in women. Most cases are caused by a sexually transmitted infection, the human papillomavirus (HPV).
You can have the virus for years and not know it until you develop cervical cancer. This is why regular screening is important, as any pre-cancerous abnormalities are most often treated successfully. Pap tests are the recommended screening for cervical cancer.
About half of the women who are diagnosed with cervical cancer have never had a Pap test. "We know that routine Pap screening decreases deaths from cervical cancer by 80 percent," says Phillip Shuffer, MD, an ob-gyn at Kaiser Permanente in the Ohio Region. A Pap test detects changes in the cells of the cervix, including those that can lead to cancer.
For women 65 and over, testing for cervical cancer is still necessary, especially if you have not had normal test results over several years. If you have had normal results for several years or have had your cervix removed (as part of a hysterectomy), your doctor may recommend you stop getting regular Pap tests.
If you have questions or concerns about cervical cancer or your Pap test, talk with your doctor.
For more information about cervical cancer, visit kp.org/womenshealth or talk to your doctor.