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Understanding Cervical Changes: A Health Guide for Women

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Understanding Cervical Changes: A Health Guide for Women

Most women who have abnormal cervical screening tests do not have cervical cancer. Most have early cell changes that can be monitored (since they often go away on their own) or treated early (to prevent problems later). So, get the follow-up visits, tests, or treatment that your health care provider advises.

Good News About Preventing Cervical Cancer

We know what causes cervical cancer.
Nearly all cervical cancer is caused by a virus called HPV (human papillomavirus).

Cervical cell changes happen slowly.
It can take many years for cells infected with HPV to develop into cervical cancer.

We have great tools to prevent cervical cancer.
Regular screening and early HPV vaccination can prevent cervical cancer.

Better screening tests mean less frequent screening.
Because of improvements in cervical cancer screening, guidelines now recommend less frequent screening than before.

Abnormal test results don't mean that you have cancer.
An abnormal Pap test result or cotesting result does not mean that you have cervical cancer. It means that cervical cell changes were found or that cells are infected with HPV. Depending on the results, you may need follow-up testing or treatment. Treatment for cervical changes works well.

Scientific advances have helped us learn much more about how cervical cancer develops, as well as how and when to screen women. However, these advances have also added a layer of complexity for health care providers and women. This guide helps women talk with their health care provider and make informed decisions to prevent cervical cancer.