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January Is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month

January 11, 2008

SistersThe Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center reminds women to do something important for their own health and the health of their daughters — talk to their doctor about screening and prevention of cervical cancer.

The Pap test and a new vaccine against a virus that causes 70% of cervical cancers can work together to fight what used to be the number one cause of cancer death among women.

The U.S. Food and Drug Association recently approved this vaccine, which protects against infection by types of the human papilloma virus (HPV) that causes many cases of cervical cancer. The vaccine is recommended for girls and women between the ages of 9 and 26. If you are between these ages, or if you have a daughter who is between these ages, talk to your doctor or pediatrician about the HPV vaccine.

In addition, all women should begin regular Pap tests by age 21 or within three years after onset of vaginal intercourse. Specific guidelines from the American Cancer Society recommend:

  • Regular Pap tests should be done yearly; the newer liquid-based Pap test, every two years.
  • Beginning at age 30, women who do not have certain risk factors such as a weakened immune system or DES exposure before birth and who have had three normal Pap test results in a row may be screened very two to three years.
  • Women over 30 may also consider a Pap test plus the DNA test for infection with the human papilloma virus (HPV) every three years.
  • Women over 70 who have had three normal Pap tests in a row and no abnormal Pap tests in the past 10 years may choose to stop having screening. Women with a history of cervical cancer or certain risk factors should continue screening.

For more information about cervical cancer, visit