There are two ways that cervical cancer can be prevented:
1. Get regular Pap tests – A screening test called a Pap test can find cervical cancer and decrease women’s chance of dying from cervical cancer. The Pap test is a simple test that collects and looks at cells from the surface of the cervix and vagina. If the cells are abnormal, a doctor will ask for more tests to be done. When pre-cancerous cells are found and taken out of the cervix, cervical cancer can be prevented. Regular Pap tests can find cancer before it starts!
2. Get an HPV vaccine – Almost all cervical cancers are caused by HPV. HPV, or the human papillomavirus, is a virus that can cause changes in the cells of the cervix. HPV is very common but there are vaccines available to protect against HPV. The vaccine protects both girls and boys against HPV and the cancers/genital warts that HPV can cause. The HPV vaccine is recommended for girls and boys, 11 or 12 years old (and up until age 26 for those who have not been vaccinated yet).
Do I need a Pap test?
Women should start getting regular Pap tests at age 21. It is important to get Pap tests regularly. If you have had your cervix removed (during an operation called a hysterectomy), or are older than 65 and have had good Pap test results for several years, your doctor may tell you it is okay to stop getting regular Pap tests. Depending on your age and Pap test history, your provider may also test you for HPV.
How can I get a Pap test?
If you cannot afford your co-pays or deductibles: Some health insurance plans do not pay for all of the cancer screening tests that you need. The Maryland Breast and Cervical Cancer Program may be able to help! Call 1-800-477-9774 for more information.
How can I get the HPV vaccine?
The Vaccines for Children (VFC) Program is a federal program that offers vaccines at no cost for eligible children, ages 18 and under, through VFC-enrolled doctors. Contact the Maryland program at 410-767-6674. Some pharmaceutical companies offer patient assistance programs to help pay for vaccination. Ask your healthcare provider about your other options.