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In the Spotlight

Can Cervical Cancer Be Prevented?

Early detection can save your life

Veteran talking to her doctorThe new year is here, and VA is reminding Veterans that January is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month. It's a great time to raise awareness about cervical health and the importance of getting regular screenings.

Early detection can save your life

Cancer that starts in cells of the cervix is called cervical cancer. Cervical cancer can spread from the cervix to other parts of the body. This spread is called metastasis. The more cancer spreads, the harder it is to treat.

Cervical cancer was once the number one cause of cancer-related deaths in women. Since more people are being screened, the number of cervical cancer deaths in the United States has dropped by more than 50%.

Cervical cancer screening

Cervical cancer is one of the most treatable cancers if found early. A Pap smear looks for cancer and pre-cancerous cervical cells. Screening for the human papillomavirus (HPV), which causes most cervical cancers, often leads to early detection.

In addition to screening, there's a vaccination to prevent HPV. It's most effective if given during childhood, but adults can benefit from it, too.

Questions to ask

These are some of the most helpful questions to ask during your next visit:

  • How often do I need a Pap or HPV test, or both?

  • If my test is abnormal, how will I be contacted?

  • Should I receive the HPV vaccine?

When should I be screened?

Depending on your age and current health, you can be screened in three- or five-year increments. For women Veterans between the ages of 21 and 29, VA recommends a Pap test every three years.

For women Veterans between the ages of 30 and 65, VA recommends one of three options:

  • A Pap test every three years.

  • Both the Pap and HPV tests every five years.

  • An HPV test every five years.

My HealtheVet and screening

Speak to your VA health care team about how to schedule a cervical cancer screening, a Pap test, or an HPV test at your local VA facility as soon as possible if you have concerns. Your results can be viewed in a Blue Button report. Veterans with a Premium account can see radiologists' notes from such screenings.

Screening doesn't prevent cancer, but it can save your life by finding cancer as early as possible. Contact your doctor by using My HealtheVet's Secure Messaging (sign in required) if you're interested in setting up an appointment.

Remember: You can text the Women Veterans Call Center at 1-855-VA-WOMEN, chat online via real-time messaging, or visit www.womenshealth.va.gov for more information.


Please vote in our unscientific poll. All responses are anonymous.

Have you been screened for cervical cancer in the past 3-5 years (depending on your age)?