Get answers to the most frequently asked questions about cervical cancer from Mayo Clinic gynecologic oncologist Kristina Butler, M.D., M.S.

Hello. I'm Dr. Kristina Butler, a gynecologic oncologist at Mayo Clinic, and I'm here to answer some of the important questions you might have about cervical cancer.

What is the right amount of time between Pap smears?

Pap smear screenings begin at age 21 and continue, varying by age, every three to five years.

What does it mean to have an abnormal Pap smear?

Having an abnormal Pap smear is very common, so don't feel alone. It just means that additional tests are needed to prove that cervical cancer isn't present. Most people with abnormal Pap smear do not end up having a diagnosis of cervical cancer.

What is the age cut off for the HPV vaccine?

Most recently, the HPV vaccination has been increased to include all adults male and female to age 45.

Should I still get the HPV vaccine if I already have cervical pre-cancer?

Absolutely. After cervical pre-cancer or even HPV exposure, the vaccine remains to provide benefit. We have good evidence to support this. So I recommend HPV vaccination after pre-cancer or even after cervical cancer.

Does catching cervical cancer early make a difference?

Certainly, we aim to detect cervical cancer as early as possible. Early stage cervical cancer has much improved overall survival and reduced recurrence.

Does cervical cancer impact fertility?

Even though you've been diagnosed with cervical cancer, family planning is still possible. When diagnosed at early stages, we have fertility sparing treatment options that allow a woman to be treated for cervical cancer in some cases and continue to have fertility.

How can I be the best partner to my medical team?

I highly recommend having a medical team that you're comfortable communicating with. It's always safe to ask questions, get second opinions. And remember, at the end of the day, we're all here to help you on the same team. Never hesitate to ask your medical team any questions or concerns you have. Being informed makes all the difference. Thanks for your time and we wish you well.

Oct. 05, 2022