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Cervical Screening: Screening Can Save Lives


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Why is screening for cervical cancer important?

Cervical cancer is preventable and treatable if detected early.

For the past several decades, the number of women diagnosed each year with cervical cancer has decreased. Healthcare providers believe this is mainly because of the success of screening.  Women who have never been screened or who have not been screened in the past 5 years face a greater risk of developing invasive cervical cancer.

Screening means checking for health problems before they cause symptoms. Cervical cancer screening is used to detect cancer or other abnormal conditions. If screening detects an abnormality, diagnosis and treatment can occur promptly.

Some racial/ethnic groups experience higher rates of cervical cancer than other groups, so it is important for everyone to be screened. For example, Hispanic women have the highest incidence rate of cervical cancer and African American women have highest mortality rate of cervical cancer among other racial/ethnic groups.

Does human papillomavirus (HPV) cause cervical cancer?

Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the leading cause of cervical cancer.

Most HPV infections occur without any symptoms and go away without any treatment. However, infection with certain types of HPV is the main cause of cervical cancer. Learn more from the National Cancer Institute (NCI):

Human Papillomaviruses (HPV) and Cancer: Questions and Answers Fact Sheet
Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Vaccines: Questions and Answers Fact Sheet

What test checks the cervix for cancer?

Healthcare providers recommend that women help reduce their risk of cervical cancer by having regular Pap tests.

Sometimes the test is also called a Pap smear or cervical smear. It is a simple test used to look at cells collected from the cervix. Pap tests can find cervical cancer or abnormal cells that can lead to cervical cancer.

When should I get screened for cervical cancer?

Talk with your healthcare provider about when you should begin having Pap tests and how often to have them.

Cervical cancer occurs most often in women over the age of 40 and among women who do not have regular Pap tests. Healthcare providers generally recommend that women start having Pap tests 3 years after they begin having sexual intercourse or when they reach age 21 (whichever comes first). They also recommend that women have a Pap test at least once every 3 years.

Where can you get screened for cervical cancer?

Ask your health care provider or local health clinic for the screening site nearest you.
Stanford Hospital patients can contact the Stanford Referral Center, by calling 1-800-756-9000, Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., or sending an email to Referrals [referral].

Call the Cancer Detection Programs: Every Woman Counts at 1-800-511-2300.
Every Woman Counts provides low-income women access to screening, diagnostic and follow-up services for breast and cervical cancer. Services are available in English, Spanish, Cantonese, Mandarin, Vietnamese and Korean, Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Where can I find more information about cervical cancer?

Stanford Resources

National Cancer Institute (NCI) Resources

  • National Cancer Institute at
  • NCI Cervical Cancer Page
  • NCI Cancer Information Service (CIS): Trained information specialists can answer your questions about cancer and provide print and electronic NCI publications. Service is available in English and Spanish on Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Eastern Time.

Call toll free at 1-800-4-CANCER (1-800-422-6237) or 1-800-332-8615 (TTY for the hearing and speech impaired). Callers also have the option of listening to recorded information about cancer 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Live Help To get live, online assistance from an NCI Information Specialist, visit LiveHelp.

Stanford Medicine Resources:

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