Facts about cervical cancer

Did you know that cervical cancer, one of the six most common cancers in women, is completely preventable?  According to the CDC, it occurs most often in women over age 30, and each year, about 12,000 women in the United States get diagnosed.  Check out these facts (and factsheet) from womenshealth.gov about preventative steps you can take.

What is cervical cancer?

Cancer is a disease that happens when body cells don’t work right. The cells divide really fast and grow out of control. These extra cells form a tumor. Cervical cancer is cancer in the cervix, the lower, narrow part of the uterus(womb). The uterus is the hollow, pear-shaped organ where a baby grows during a woman’s pregnancy. The cervix forms a canal that opens into the vagina (birth canal), which leads to the outside of the body.

Most cases of cervical cancer are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV).

Why should I be concerned about cervical cancer?

Cervical cancer is a disease that can be very serious. However, it is a disease that you can help prevent. Cervical cancer happens when normal cells in the cervix change into cancer cells. This normally takes several years to happen, but it can also happen in a very short period of time.

How can I help prevent cervical cancer?

Two kinds of vaccines (Cervarix and Gardasil) can protect girls and young women against the types of HPV that cause most cervical cancers. Cervarix and Gardasil are licensed, safe, and effective for females ages 9 through 26 years. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended that all girls who are 11 or 12 years old get 3 doses (shots) of either brand of HPV vaccine to protect against cervical cancer and precancer. (Gardasil also protects against most genital warts.) Girls and young women ages 13 through 26 should get all 3 doses of an HPV vaccine if they have not received all doses yet.

More information on cervical cancer

To learn more about cervical cancer, please visit the following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention websites:

For more information about cervical cancer, call womenshealth.gov at 800-994-9662 (TDD: 888-220-5446) or contact the following organizations:


Cervical Cancer Factsheet
Screening Guidelines