Cervical Cancer Screenings

The Jackson-Madison County Regional Health Department encourages all women 21 and older to get regular cervical cancer screenings. 

Cervical cancer is preventable. When found early it is highly treatable. The two most important things you can do to prevent cervical cancer are get regular screening tests and be vaccinated against the human papillomavirus (HPV).

What Causes Cervical Cancer?

Cervical cancer is cancer that starts in the cervix. The cervix is the lower end of the womb (uterus). It connects the uterus to the vagina.

HPV — a very common virus passed from one person to another during sex — causes nearly all cervical cancers. It can also cause several other types of cancer in men and women (vagina, vulva, penis, anus, oropharyngeal). Cancer usually takes many years to develop after a person gets HPV, and there are often no symptoms in the early stages.

With regular screenings, healthcare providers are more likely to find problems and treat them before they turn into cancer.

What is a Cervical Cancer Screening?

Cervical cancer screening looks for signs of cervical cancer before you feel symptoms from the disease. Two screening tests can help prevent cervical cancer or find it early:

The Pap test (or Pap smear) looks for precancers, cell changes on the cervix that might become cervical cancer if not appropriately treated.

The HPV test looks for the virus (human papillomavirus) that can cause these cell changes.

Who is Eligible for Screenings?

Our Family Planning Department sees women of reproductive age.

For most patients, once you reach the age of 21, you should get a cervical cancer screening once every three years. You may need earlier or more frequent screening if you have a higher risk for cervical cancer, such as having a family history or a previous cancer diagnosis.

You are eligible for a free cervical cancer screening if you meet the general eligibility guidelines: you do not have insurance, your insurance does not pay for this service, and you meet income guidelines. Call for more information. 

What is the HPV Vaccine?

The HPV vaccine is another important tool for preventing cervical cancer. The Health Department also recommends the HPV vaccine for girls and boys between the ages of 11 and 12.

Since the HPV vaccine was introduced in 2006, HPV infections and cervical precancers have dropped. Among young adult women, infections with HPV types that cause most HPV cancers and genital warts have dropped 81%.

The vaccine has the best chance of protecting against infection if given before HPV exposure, which is why the CDC recommends two doses of the vaccine at ages 11-12 for both boys and girls. Teens and young adults who have not received both doses of the HPV vaccine should do so as soon as possible. HPV vaccinations can be started at age 9. Some adults can benefit from the HPV vaccine up to age 45.

To schedule an appointment for screening or vaccination, call 731-423-3020.