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Veterans Health Administration


Tests to Help Prevent or Detect Cervical Cancer

A doctor talks with a woman patient


Portrait of a woman doctor

Dr. Amanda Johnson

Almost all women are at risk for cervical cancer.

Each year, approximately 12,000 women in the United States are diagnosed with cervical cancer.

The majority of deaths from cervical cancer in the U.S. are among women who are screened infrequently or not at all.

VA encourages all women Veterans to have regular screening tests which can help to prevent cervical cancer or detect it early.

Two screening tests can help prevent cervical cancer or detect it early:

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

Medical advances, such as the HPV vaccine, have and will continue to, dramatically reduce the incidence of cervical cancer.

According to Dr. Amanda Johnson, Senior Medical Consultant, Reproductive Health, Women Veterans’ Health Care, “Cervical cancer is one of the most preventable cancers through vaccination, regular screening tests, and timely follow-up.”

January is National Cervical Cancer Awareness Month and VA reminds all women Veterans to see their physician for a screening test at regular intervals.

“The VA provides women Veterans with a full range of reproductive health services necessary for optimal health throughout their lives.”

Information on Cervical Cancer Screenings from CDC

Women Veterans should have cervical cancer screening at regular intervals.

The Pap test, which screens for cervical cancer, is one of the most reliable and effective cancer screening tests available.

In addition to the Pap test — the main test for cervical cancer — the HPV test may also be used to screen women aged 30 years and older, or women of any age who have unclear Pap test results.

If you are 30 years old or older and your screening tests are normal, your chance of getting cervical cancer in the next few years is very low. For that reason, your doctor may tell you that you will not need another screening test for up to five years. But you should still go to the doctor regularly for a check-up that may include a pelvic exam.

It is important for you to continue getting a Pap test regularly — even if you think you are too old to have a child, or are not having sex anymore.

If you are older than 65 and have had normal Pap test results for several years, or if you have had your cervix removed (during an operation called a hysterectomy), your doctor may tell you it is okay to stop getting regular Pap tests.

There are several ways to treat cervical cancer. The treatment depends on the type of cervical cancer and how far it has spread. Treatments may include surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation.

VA Provides Safe and Sensitive Environment

Dr. Johnson emphasizes the VA of the 21st century has a modern and dedicated focus on health care for women Veterans, adding that, “VA provides women Veterans with a full range of reproductive health services necessary for optimal health throughout their lives.”

VA’s Women Veterans Health Care addresses the health care needs of women Veterans and works to ensure that timely, equitable, high-quality, comprehensive health care services are provided in a sensitive and safe environment at VA health facilities nationwide.

Women Veterans Health Care works to make certain that all eligible women Veterans requesting VA care are assured of:

  • Comprehensive primary care by a proficient and interested primary care provider
  • Privacy, safety, dignity, and sensitivity to gender-specific needs
  • State-of-the-art health care equipment and technology
  • High-quality preventive and clinical care, equal to that provided to male Veterans
  • The right care in the right place and time

Here is more detailed information on cervical cancer from the Centers for Disease Control.