Frequently Asked Questions

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Cervical cancer starts in the cells of the cervix, which is the opening of the uterus. These cells gradually change, becoming precancerous before turning into cancer.1

There are 2 main types of cervical cancers: squamous cell carcinoma, which develops in the cells on the outer surface of the cervix, and adenocarcinoma, which develops in the cells inside the cervical canal.1

In the early stages, cervical cancer often has no symptoms, which is why routine testing and early detection is important. For women ages 30 to 65, testing with Pap+HPV Together™ (also known as co-testing) is the recommended method.1-5

As the disease progresses, symptoms may include1,2:

  • Abnormal vaginal bleeding, such as bleeding between monthly periods, bleeding after sex or douching, or bleeding after menopause
  • Watery or unusual vaginal discharge
  • Pain during intercourse
  • Pelvic pain that is not related to your monthly period

The biggest risk factor for cervical cancer is being infected with the types of human papilloma virus (HPV) that are strongly associated with cancer. HPV is a common virus among sexually active individuals. Most types of HPV will go away on their own without treatment. However, there are certain high-risk strains that may develop into cervical cancer.1,2

Other risk factors include1,2:

  • Smoking
  • Family history of cervical cancer
  • Problems with your immune system
  • Being overweight

According to leading health organizations such as the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and the American Cancer Society (ACS), you should have a Pap test every 3 years from the ages of 21 to 29.3-5

For women ages 30 to 65, the preferred method is testing with Pap+HPV Together™ (also know as co-testing) every 5 years. With Pap+HPV Together, a Pap test and an HPV test are ordered by your doctor at the same time from just one sample.3-5

If your healthcare provider suspects cervical cancer after receiving your test results, in addition to a pelvic exam he or she may perform a test called a colposcopy to more closely examine your cervix.1,2

A biopsy may also be performed, which means a small amount of tissue is removed and then examined by a pathologist with a microscope. This is the only way to tell for sure whether or not cervical cancer is present.1,2

Cervical cancer can be treated with surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy. In some cases, more than one type of treatment may be used.1,2

The good news is that cervical cancer is highly treatable, with a cure rate of over 90% if it is caught early enough.6

Insurance coverage varies from plan to plan, so it is important to check with your provider to find out what your policy covers. Your healthcare provider’s office may also be able to help you get more information.

References: 1. American Cancer Society. Cervical cancer protection and early detection. http://www.cancer.org/acs/groups/cid/documents/webcontent/003167-pdf.pdf. Accessed November 10, 2015. 2. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. FAQ 163, April 2015. http://www.acog.org/Patients/FAQs/Cervical-Cancer#whatare. Accessed on November 9, 2015. 3. Saslow D, Solomon D, Lawson HW, et al. American Cancer Society, American Society for Colposcopy and Cervical Pathology, and American Society for Clinical Pathology screening guidelines for the prevention and early detection of cervical cancer. CA Cancer J Clin. 2012;62(3):147-172. 4. US Preventive Services Task Force. Final Update Summary: Cervical Cancer: Screening. http://www.uspreventiveservicestaskforce.org/Page/Document/UpdateSummaryFinal/cervical-cancer-screening. Accessed November 9, 2015. 5. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Practice bulletin 131: Screening for cervical cancer. Obstet Gynecol. 2012;120(5):1222-1238. 6. National Cancer Institute. Cervical cancer treatment for healthcare professionals. http://www.cancer.gov/types/cervical/hp/cervical-treatment-pdq. Accessed November 9, 2015.