Cervical Cancer

Cervical cancer is caused by high-risk types of the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). HPV can cause the cells on your cervix to become abnormal and then slowly develop into a cancer. (further information).

Human Papilloma Virus (HPV)

HPV is very common and most adults will have had HPV at some time in their lives. Fortunately, 90% of these HPV infections will go away on their own without any treatment. However, some infections do not go away and it is these long-lasting infections that can cause cervical cancer (further information).

Cervical Screening

Cervical cancer can be prevented by regular screening. Cervical screening is used to find the abnormal cervical cells that could turn into a cancer. When found at an early stage, these abnormal cells can usually be easily removed so the cancer will not develop. However, abnormal cervical cells do not cause any symptoms so it is important to get screened even if you feel well.

There are 2 tests that can be used for cervical screening:

  • The Pap Test looks for the abnormal cells that can develop into cervical cancer. If abnormal cells are found, your doctor or nurse will recommend a follow-up with additional tests such as another Pap test, a HPV test and/or a colposcopy (further information).
  • The HPV Test looks for the HPV types that can cause abnormal cervical cells and cervical cancer. HPV testing can be used alone or in combination with the Pap test. It is not recommended for screening women under the age of 30 as HPV infections are very common in younger women and most of these infections disappear on their own without any problems. If the HPV test is positive, your doctor or nurse will recommend a follow-up with a Pap test and/or colposcopy (further information).

HPV Vaccines

HPV vaccination is highly effective in preventing infection with the HPV types that cause the majority of cervical cancers. Because HPV is sexually transmitted, vaccination is most effective when given before the start of sexual activities, such as to adolescents.

However, the vaccines do not protect against all high-risk HPV types so while they reduce the risk of cervical cancer, they do not eliminate it. Therefore, even women who have been vaccinated should continue to be screened to protect against cervical cancers that may be caused by other types of HPV (further information).