Cervical cancer is the easiest gynecologic cancer to prevent with regular screening tests and follow-ups. Two screening tests can help prevent cervical cancer or find it early are:
- Pap test (or Pap smear): looks for any cell changes on the cervix that might become cervical cancer if they are not treated appropriately
- HPV test: looks for Human Papillomavirus that can cause these cell changes
Are cervical cancer screenings covered?
Cervical cancer is the easiest gynecologic cancer to prevent with regular screening tests and follow-ups. TRICARE covers the following to screen for cervical cancer:
- Physical examination (Pelvic examination should be performed in conjunction with Pap smear testing)
- Pap Smear testing for women 21 years of age or older
- Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Deoxyribonucleic Acid (DNA) testing when performed in conjunction with a Pap smear and only for women 30 and older
What are the signs and symptoms of cervical cancer?
In the early stages of cervical cancer, there may not be any symptoms at all. In some cases, the symptoms may be irregular or heavy pain or bleeding.
Am I at risk?
The following conditions can be risk factors for cervical cancer:
- Human Papillomavirus (HPV) infection
- A weakened immune system
- Chlamydia infection
- A diet low in fruits and vegetables
- Being overweight
- Long-term use of oral contraceptives (birth control pills)
- Having multiple full-term pregnancies
- Young age at first full-term pregnancy
When should I get a screening?
The American Cancer Society recommends that cervical cancer screening begin at age 25.
Those aged 25 to 65 should have a primary HPV test every five years. If primary HPV testing is not available, screening may be done with either a co-test that combines an HPV test with a Papanicolaou (Pap) test every five years or a Pap test alone every three years.
Those over age 65 who have had regular screening in the past 10 years with normal results and no history of CIN2 or more serious diagnosis within the past 25 years should stop cervical cancer screening. Once stopped, it should not be started again.
Women who have had a total hysterectomy (removal of the uterus and cervix) should stop screening, unless the hysterectomy was done as a treatment for cervical cancer or serious pre-cancer. Those who have had a hysterectomy without removal of the cervix (called a supra-cervical hysterectomy) should continue cervical cancer screening according to the guidelines above.
Those who have been vaccinated against HPV should still follow these guidelines for their age groups.