get regular Pap tests. Testing has had a definite impact on reducing mortality rates of cervical cancer. In the past 30 years, rates of incidence and mortality of cervical cancer has dropped 50 percent, even among Hispanic women.
Cervical cancer is caused by the human papillomavirus, or HPV, a common sexually transmitted infection. Most HPV infections go away on their own, but persistent HPV infections can lead to cell changes that can progress to cervical cancer.
Cervical cancer is highly preventable because of Pap tests and HPV vaccines. The Pap test finds problems with the cervix as soon as they start and the HPV vaccine prevents HPV infections. When cervical cancer is found early, it is highly treatable.
To protect against cervical cancer and precancer, the CDC recommends that all girls who are 11 or 12 years old get three doses (shots) of HPV vaccine. According to the CDC, girls and young women aged 13 through 26 years should get all three doses of an HPV vaccine if they have not received all doses yet. The vaccine can be given to girls beginning at age 9 years. Boys and young men aged 9 through 26 years also can be vaccinated against HPV for the prevention of genital warts.
Also, there are programs to help women receive free or low-cost Pap tests. If you have low income or do not have health insurance, you may be able to get a Pap test through the National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program. Call your local program or 1-800-CDC-INFO to see if you qualify.
Also, the Vaccines for Children program (VFC) offers vaccines if you don’t have insurance for your child or if your insurance does not cover all recommended vaccines.