Update on prevention and screening of cervical cancer

World J Clin Oncol. 2014 Oct 10;5(4):744-52. doi: 10.5306/wjco.v5.i4.744.


Cervical cancer is the third most common cause of cancer in women in the world. During the past few decades tremendous strides have been made toward decreasing the incidence and mortality of cervical cancer with the implementation of various prevention and screening strategies. The causative agent linked to cervical cancer development and its precursors is the human papillomavirus (HPV). Prevention and screening measures for cervical cancer are paramount because the ability to identify and treat the illness at its premature stage often disrupts the process of neoplasia. Cervical carcinogenesis can be the result of infections from multiple high-risk HPV types that act synergistically. This imposes a level of complexity to identifying and vaccinating against the actual causative agent. Additionally, most HPV infections spontaneously clear. Therefore, screening strategies should optimally weigh the benefits and risks of screening to avoid the discovery and needless treatment of transient HPV infections. This article provides an update of the preventative and screening methods for cervical cancer, mainly HPV vaccination, screening with Pap smear cytology, and HPV testing. It also provides a discussion of the newest United States 2012 guidelines for cervical cancer screening, which changed the age to begin and end screening and lengthened the screening intervals.

Keywords: Cancer screening; Cervical cancer; Human papillomavirus; Pap smear; Papillomavirus vaccines.

Publication types

  • Review