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Most cervical cancer can be prevented. One way is to find and treat pre-cancers before they become cancer, and the second way is to prevent pre-cancers.

Finding pre-cancers before they become cancer

A well-proven way to prevent cancer of the cervix is to have testing (screening) to find pre-cancers. These can be treated so that they don’t turn into cancer. The Pap test (Pap smear) and the human papilloma virus (HPV) test are the tests used for this.. Most cervical cancers are found in women who have not had cervical cancer screening when they should.

The Pap test (or Pap smear) is a procedure used to collect cells from the cervix so that they can be looked at under the microscope to find cancer and pre-cancer. These cells can also be used for HPV testing. A Pap test can be done during a pelvic exam, but not all pelvic exams include a Pap test.

For information about finding and treating cervical pre-cancers, see our document Cervical Cancer Prevention and Early Detection. This document also has information about the work-up of abnormal Pap test results.

Things to do to prevent cervical pre-cancers

There are also some things you can do to prevent pre-cancers, such as:

  • Avoiding exposure to HPV
  • Getting an HPV vaccine
  • Not smoking

More information about ways to prevent cervical cancer and pre-cancer can be found in our document Cervical Cancer Prevention and Early Detection.

Last Medical Review: 10/15/2014
Last Revised: 01/29/2016