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Prevent Cervical Cancer with Vaccination and Testing, Free Screening Available for Those Who Qualify

More than 14,000 women in the United States are diagnosed with invasive cervical cancer each year, but the disease is preventable with vaccination and appropriate screening.

January is Cervical Health Awareness Month, a time to learn more about cervical health and cervical cancer prevention and take steps to help eliminate this preventable cancer.

The two most important tools to remember when it comes to cervical health are vaccination and testing.


The HPV vaccine has been around since 2006. In that time, rates of cervical cancer incidence have dropped significantly among vaccinated women. One study from Sweden looked at 11 years (2006 through 2017) and found 90% reduction in cervical cancer incidence compared with the incidence in women who had not been vaccinated.

HPV vaccines help prevent infection from both high-risk HPV types that can lead to cervical cancer and low-risk types that cause genital warts.

The CDC recommends all boys and girls get HPV vaccine at age 11 or 12. The vaccine produces a stronger immune response when taken during the preteen years. For this reason, up until age 14, only two doses are the vaccine are required. Women and men can get the vaccine up to age 45 but for those 15 and older, a full three-dose series is needed.

You can get the vaccine at your doctor’s office or the Buncombe County Health and Human Services Department at 40 Coxe Avenue in Asheville.

Learn more about the HPV vaccine here.


The goal of cervical cancer screening—Pap tests and HPV tests—is to find problems, like cell changes, so they can be treated before they turn into cancer.

The traditional test for early detection has been the Pap test. For women aged 30 and over, an HPV test is also recommended. HPV tests can find any of the high-risk types of HPV that are commonly found in cervical cancer.

Women should start screening with the Pap test at age 21, according to current guidelines for cervical cancer screening.

Starting at age 30, women have three options available for screening:

  • A Pap test alone every three years.
  • Co-testing with a Pap and HPV test, every five years.
  • An HPV test alone, every five years.

Depending on the results of the Pap and/or HPV tests, a healthcare provider may recommend additional screening or procedures, so some women may be screened more often.

After age 65, women older than 65 who have had adequate prior screening and are not otherwise at high risk can stop screening. Women who have had a hysterectomy (with removal of the cervix) also do not need to be screened, unless they have a have a history of a high-grade precancerous lesions.

To learn more about each type of screening, click here.

Breast And Cervical Cancer Control Program (BCCCP)

The Buncombe County Health and Human Services BCCCP is a program serving women and transgender people providing free chest and cervical exams, pap smears and HPV testing, and mammograms. This program is open to those:

To learn more about eligibility or schedule an appointment, call (828) 250-6006.

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Updated Feb 08, 2024 01:34 PM
Published Jan 05, 2024 12:00 PM

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