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Who is at risk for cervical cancer?

Dr. Jeanne Morrison, PhD
Family Practitioner

Women who have human papillomavirus (HPV) are at very high risk for cervical cancer. Women who smoke may get cervical cancer over non-smokers. Early initial sexual activity and multiple partners may increase the risk of getting STDs and then HPV. Women living in impoverished areas may be at serious risk if they do not have access to regular pap screenings, which can catch identify cervical cells in a pre-cancerous stage. Women with a family history of cervical cancer are also at a higher risk.

All women are at risk for cervical cancer. It occurs most often in women over age 30. Cervical cancer is highly preventable because screening tests (such as the Pap test) to find precancers early, and vaccines to prevent human papillomavirus (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 of all ages are at risk for cervical cancer, but it occurs most often in women 30 and over because they are more likely to have persistent human papillomavirus (HPV) infections. Regardless, it is important that even postmenopausal women continue having regular Pap tests if they still have a cervix. If a woman's cervix was removed during a hysterectomy because of cervical cancer or precancer, she should continue screening with Pap tests and HPV tests. If her cervix was removed during a hysterectomy and there were no signs of cancer and no suspicious Pap tests before the surgery, then she may not need to continue screening. Women over age 65 should stop getting Pap tests if they have had adequate prior screenings and are not at high risk for cervical cancer. Always discuss screening needs with your primary care doctor.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.