Proper screening and vaccination can limit the risk of cervical cancer.

Cervical cancer is the fourth most common cancer among women globally. This disease claims the lives of 300,000 women each year, one every two minutes. Many of these deaths are unnecessary since cervical cancer is almost completely preventable and if diag

by Nashville General Hospital
Cervical Cancer conceptual image

Nearly 14,500 women in the United States were diagnosed with cervical cancer in 2021. More than 4,200 died from the disease. With vaccination and appropriate screening it’s possible to lower these numbers considerably.

To help raise awareness of this invasive disease, January has been designated as Cervical Health Awareness Month by the United States Congress. Cervical cancer is a disease in which cancer cells form in the cervix. Virtually all cervical cancers are caused by HPV (human papillomavirus). Most sexually active people, male and female, have HPV at some point. Fortunately, like many viruses, there is a vaccine that can prevent HPV infection and protect women against the types of HPV that most often cause cervical cancer.

“HPV vaccines have been in use since 2006. They have been thoroughly tested and are safe,” says Nashville General gynecological surgeon, Dr. Nathaniel Klein, MD, MBA, MS. “In addition to the vaccine, a cervical cancer screening should be part of your regular preventive healthcare routine.”

There are two tests that can help prevent cervical cancer or find it early. These can be done in a doctor’s office or clinic:

  • The Pap test (or Pap smear) looks for precancers, which are cell changes on the cervix that might become cervical cancer if they are not treated appropriately.
  • The human papillomavirus (HPV) test looks for the virus that can cause these cell changes.

Women starting at the age of 21 should have a Pap test done every 3 years. HPV test is recommended for women 30 years and older every 5 years until the age of 65. However, if even you are not due for cervical cancer screening, you should still see your Ob/Gyn regularly for a routine visit.

“Because of the pandemic, many people are overlooking their preventive care. They are afraid they might be exposed to COVID at their doctor’s office,” says Dr. Klein. “That’s a mistake. Healthcare providers are very aware of the risks involved with COVID and are taking steps to make certain their offices are clean and safe. By getting your regular screenings, you’re able to catch and treat diseases earlier and identify other factors that may negatively contribute to your health.”

Visit the Gynecologic Care website to learn more about Nashville General Hospital’s services and to make an appointment. You can also learn more about the HPV vaccine and cervical cancer screenings. View our Wellness Wednesday conversation with Dr. Klein on our YouTube page.


This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. You should talk with your primary care physician or other qualified medical professional regarding diagnosis and treatment of a health condition.