The Fidelis Care Blog 

January Is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month
1/7/2022 • Posted by Dr. Thomas Raskauskas, Senior Medical Director at Fidelis Care in Health and Wellness, In The Community, Women's Health


Dr. Thomas A. Raskauskas is an obstetrician-gynecologist and the Senior Medical Director at Fidelis Care. Here, he answers some common questions about cervical cancer.

  1. What is cervical cancer?

Cancer that develops in the opening of the womb, called the cervix.

  1. What causes cervical cancer?

The main cause of cervical cancer is due to an infection called human papilloma virus (HPV) passed on by sexual contact. The virus causes the tissue cells to grow abnormally and turn into cancer.

  1. Can cervical cancer be prevented?

Yes, it can! There are vaccines that fight the human papilloma virus (HPV) and prevent from growing abnormally into cancer cells.

  1. Who should get the vaccine, and when?

It is ideal to give the vaccine before you become sexually active. Both boys and girls between the ages of 11-12 should get the vaccine. It can be given from ages 9-26. Talk with your health care provider if you are between 26-45 years of age to see if the vaccine is right for you. Depending upon your age, the vaccine is given in either 2 or 3 doses.

  1. What is Cervical Cancer screening?

A simple test called a pap smear that takes a sample from the cervix to look for abnormal tissue called cells, or testing for the human papilloma virus (HPV), or both.

  1. When should I start being screened for cervical cancer?

The frequency and type of testing depends upon your age and health risks. Low health risk means you don’t have a serious health condition that affects your ability to fight infection, such as HIV. For low health risk, start cervical cancer screening from age 21-29, and repeat a pap smear every 3 years.

If you are age 30-65, you have a choice of screenings and frequency: either a pap smear every 3 years, OR a test for “high risk” human papilloma (HPV) every 5 years, OR both the pap smear and a test for “high risk” human papilloma (HPV) every 5 years

  1. When can I stop screening for cervical cancer?

Most women can stop screening for cervical cancer after age 65, or you have had surgery to remove your womb (hysterectomy) that also removed the cervix. Talk with your health care provider to see if you still need screening if you are over 65, or had surgery to remove your womb.

  1. Why don’t I need cervical cancer screening before age 21?

Luckily, cervical cancer is very slow to develop and spread. Studies have shown that overtreatment due to testing prior to age 21 occurred.

  1. How did COVID-19 affect getting the HPV vaccine and cervical cancer screening?

Due to the stay at home orders, and even with the lifting of the restrictions, there has been a significant decrease in women getting the HPV vaccine and getting proper interval screening for cervical cancer. If you have delayed getting the screening or vaccine to prevent cervical cancer, it is very important to make an appointment to get back on the proper screening schedule. This can help prevent developing advanced cervical cancer.

For questions about cervical cancer prevention, screenings or vaccines, talk with your primary care physician or OB/GYN.