Cervical Cancer

Each year in NYC, more than 400 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer and nearly 150 women die from the disease. It is a cancer that affects part of a woman’s reproductive system. Some women who have cervical cancer show no signs or symptoms.

Women can take steps to reduce their risk of developing cervical cancer. Vaccination and early detection can help you prevent cervical cancer from forming.

Risk Factors

The most common cause of cervical cancer is infection with a virus, called human papillomavirus (HPV). This common virus is passed from one person to another during sex. Most sexually active people get an HPV infection at some time in their lives, but only some women who have it will get cervical cancer.

You also may be more at risk for cervical cancer if you:

  • Smoke.
  • Take birth control pills for an extended time (five or more years.) Once you stop using birth control pills, your risk will gradually decline.
  • Have HIV or another condition that weakens your immune system.

Prevention and Screening

Pre-teens, teens and young adults of any sex should get the HPV vaccine before they become sexually active. The vaccine will prevent infection and lower their risk of cancer. While the vaccine works best when it is given before people start having any kind of sexual exposure, teens and young adults can still benefit from the vaccine after they become sexually active.

Besides the HPV vaccine, routine cancer screenings are the best way to prevent cervical cancer. The most common way to screen for cervical cancer is a Pap test. During the Pap test, a health care professional collects cells from the cervix to test both for cancer and for signs that cancer may soon develop. Your doctor may collect a sample to screen for HPV at the same time.

Different medical organizations have different recommendations about when you should get screened. For example, the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends:

  • Women ages 21 to 65 should get a Pap test every three years, OR
  • Women ages 30 to 65 should get a combination of a Pap test and an HPV screening every five years.

Ask your doctor about the benefits and risks of cervical cancer screening and when and how often you should get screened.

Where to Get a HPV Vaccine or Pap Test

You can call 311 for help finding:

  • Clinics and other locations where you can be vaccinated for HPV.
  • A doctor you can talk to about cervical cancer screening.
  • A doctor or clinic that can give you a Pap test.

Additional Resources

More Information