Quick Facts about Cervical Cancer and HPV
Cervical cancer is highly preventable through regular screening.
Cervical cancer is almost always caused by a common virus: human papillomavirus (HPV).
Most women will have HPV at some point in their lives, but few will develop cervical cancer. In fact, most women who get HPV will get rid of the virus through their body's normal healing process.
Only HPV infection that persists for several years can put a woman at risk for cervical cancer.
Screening for cervical cancer can be done by your health care provider using just a Pap test if you're younger than 30 or a Pap and HPV test if you're 30 or older.
A Pap test looks for cell changes in the cervix that might lead to cancer. The HPV test looks for the virus that causes cervical cancer. When used together, the Pap and HPV test can better identify women needing early intervention to prevent cervical cancer.
The HPV test is now approved by the FDA for regular screening in women age 30 and older.
Women should ask their healthcare providers for the test that best meets their screening needs.
In addition, an HPV vaccine is now available for girls and women ages 9-26. Although the vaccine will help prevent many HPV infections, screening will still be needed to prevent cervical cancer.
How do I get screened?
Because cervical cancer is almost always caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV), the best way to protect yourself from cervical cancer is to get screened by your healthcare provider.
There are two types of tests that can be used:
1. Pap Test (also known as Pap Smear): A Pap test looks for cell changes in your cervix that may lead to Cervical Cancer. Liquid-based Pap Tests are better at finding early cell changes than the traditional Pap Smear.
2. HPV Test: Used to find out if you have HPV, an HPV Test can let you and your health care provider know your risk of developing Cervical Cancer. An HPV Test can be used with a Pap Test in women 30 and older or as a follow-up to inconclusive Pap Test results in women under 30.
More about the HPV Test
How do I know which test I need?
If you are younger than 30, get regular Pap Tests starting at age 21 or 3 years after you first have sex (whichever comes first). If you are 30 or older, you should ask for an HPV Test along with your Pap test.
Does my insurance cover the HPV test?
HPV Testing is covered by the majority of regional and national insurance plans. Currently more than 200 million Americans have access to HPV Testing, including participants in 46 state Medicaid programs and the District of Columbia.
For specific information about your benefits, check with the Member Services department of your health plan before asking for the test.
If you have insurance-related questions before or after the HPV Test call the HPV Patient Help Hotline toll-free at 1-866-895-1HPV 866.895.1478.
What should older women know?
What older women should know about cervical cancer prevention
Key facts about cervical cancer, HPV testing and older women