• By Cynthia Weiss

Mayo Clinic Minute: Cervical cancer screening and prevention

January 24, 2020

Gynecologic cancer is any cancer that starts in women's reproductive organs. More than 94,000 women are diagnosed with gynecologic cancer annually, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The five main types of gynecologic cancer are cervical, ovarian, uterine, vaginal and vulvar.

But only one type ― cervical cancer ― can be prevented through screening and vaccination, says Dr. Christopher Destephano, a Mayo Clinic gynecologic surgeon.

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Cervical cancer used to be one of the top causes of cancer for women in the U.S. But no longer.

"Cervical cancer is a preventable cancer through screening tests and then also vaccines," says Dr. Destephano.

Dr. Destephano says that the Pap smear is the typical test used to identify abnormal cells in the cervix.

"The screening interval is starting at 21 years of age, every three years," says Dr. Destephano.

For women over 30, doctors typically add a test to look for HPV.

Ninety percent of cervical cancers are the result of HPV.

Nearly 80 million people have HPV, and Dr. Destephano says there are more than 40 strains that can cause cancer.   

But that is why the HPV vaccine is such an important prevention measure, he says.

Dr. Destephano reminds that as guidelines and screening recommendations change often, it's important to seek guidance from your health care provider.

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