According to the National Cancer Institute, additional factors can further raise cervical cancer risk after an HPV infection. These include having many children, long-term oral contraceptive use, and chronic inflammation.
Increased risk is also associated with beginning sexual intercourse at an early age, having multiple sexual partners, infrequent Pap test, cigarette smoking, a history of DES exposure, previous diagnosis of cervical cancer, compromised immune system from organ transplant or HIV, and the presence of other sexually transmitted diseases such as herpes.
2. Do I need a Pap test if I have an HPV test done?
You may be able to have an HPV test without a Pap test. The Food and Drug Administration recently approved an HPV test for use without a Pap test and recent (2015) interim guidelines from a panel of experts representing several major health organizations say that HPV testing without a Pap test may be offered as a cervical cancer screening option for women age 25 and older. Though the panel reviewed the evidence from several research studies to make their recommendations, it acknowledges that more studies are needed to further evaluate the HPV test and its role in cancer screening. For example, there are still questions about whether age 25 is the best age to start offering it as a primary screening option and how often women should be screened. (For more, read the news item "Experts Offer Advice on hrHPV Testing as a Primary Screen for Cervical Cancer.")
3. Do I need cervical cancer testing even if I've had the HPV vaccine?
Because an HPV vaccine does not protect against all cervical cancers, women who have had the vaccine still need routine screening.
The Food and Drug Administration has approved HPV vaccines for use in girls and women ages 9 to 26 to prevent cervical cancer. They protect against the high-risk types of HPV types that cause 70% of cervical cancers and the HPV types that cause about 90% of genital warts. Some HPV vaccines are also approved for boys and men to prevent cancers such as penile and anal cancer as well as genital warts. The vaccines are given in 3 doses over a period of 6 months. They are effective only if received before an initial exposure to the virus, so individuals should get them before becoming sexually active.
A single "abnormal" Pap test does not necessarily indicate that cancer is present. The membranes covering the cervix undergo constant changes and repair. While treatment may not be necessary, the situation should be monitored closely. This may require a repeat Pap test every three to six months until the situation is resolved.
Cervical cancer is a slow, progressive disease and may take years to advance beyond the cervix. Because of this fact, regular gynecologic examinations and screening tests are necessary to detect precancerous cells and allow removal of affected tissue. Regular exams can also detect cervical cancer early if it does develop. With early detection, cervical cancer is easier to treat. Left unchecked, however, it is almost always fatal.
Treatment of cervical cancer depends on the stage of the disease. When the cancer is either limited to the lining of the cervix or contained within the cervix, treatments generally include surgical removal of abnormal tissue, cryotherapy (freezing abnormal tissue), or laser technology.
Interventions for more invasive cervical cancer may include surgery to remove the affected tissue and organs, such as the uterus (hysterectomy), radiation treatments to destroy any remaining cancerous cells, or chemotherapy.
If you are diagnosed with cervical cancer, be aware that treatments for the disease are constantly evolving. Talk to your healthcare provider and a gynecologic oncologist (a doctor who specializes in cancer of the reproductive organs) to choose a treatment plan that is best for you.
This article was last reviewed on September 8, 2015. | This article was last modified on September 8, 2015.
The review date indicates when the article was last reviewed from beginning to end to ensure that it reflects the most current science. A review may not require any modifications to the article, so the two dates may not always agree.
The modified date indicates that one or more changes were made to the article. Such changes may or may not result from a full review of the article, so the two dates may not always agree.