Myths and Facts
Cervical Cancer

Myth: I'm too young to worry about cervical cancer.
Fact: While it's not common, women can be diagnosed even in their 20s. HPV infection and the precancerous condition dysplasia are common in younger women.

Myth: I have done a pelvic exam so I do not need to do a Pap test.
Fact: The Pap test collects cells from the cervix and to a lab for examination. In a pelvic exam, the doctor physically examines the cervix and other parts of a woman's anatomy.

Myth: Cervical cancer has no symptoms.
Fact: Most of the time, early cervical cancer has no symptoms. This is why screening is very important. Symptoms that may occur can include abnormal vaginal bleeding between periods, after intercourse, or after menopause, a continuous vaginal discharge, which may be pale, watery, pink, brown, bloody, or foul-smelling or periods become heavier and last longer than usual.

Myth: If I am diagnosed with cervical cancer, I am going to die.
Fact: Survival after cervical cancer caught in its earliest stage is 92 percent. The later it is diagnosed, the lower the chance of survival. Regular screening will ensure cervical cancer is diagnosed at an early, treatable stage.

Myth: I won't be able to conceive a child after cervical cancer treatment.
Fact: If you have a hysterectomy or radiation to treat cervical cancer, you will not be able to conceive. Newer surgical procedures help preserve a woman's fertility without compromising survival. Certain surgical treatment can remove the cervix but not the uterus so that a woman can still conceive.

Myth: A hysterectomy to treat cervical cancer will put me in menopause afterward.
Fact: Hysterectomy to treat cervical cancer does not remove the ovaries, which are what determines whether a person is menopausal. Cervical cancer very rarely spreads to the ovaries.

Myth: Condoms Provide complete protection against HPV
Fact: Condoms provide a limited amount of protection against the HPV, not 100 percent protection. HPV can be transmitted through sexual, skin-to-skin contact with an infected person; no penetration is needed to contract the virus. When a condom is worn, only the penis is protected while other areas of the genitalia are left exposed and may come in contact with the vagina during intercourse.

Myth: I’m too old for a Pap test.
Regular Pap tests should be a part of every woman’s health routine if she has ever been sexually active, even if in menopause. The risk of cervical cancer does not decrease with age and continued regular screening is very important even if you have the same sexual partner or are no longer sexually active.
After the age of 65, you can probably stop screening if your most recent three Pap tests are normal and if you’ve had no serious abnormal changes in the past. Talk to your healthcare provider about your need to continue having Pap tests.

Myth: I’ve had a hysterectomy so I don’t need Pap tests.
Fact: If your hysterectomy wasn’t due to cervical cancer and your healthcare provider is confident that the cervix has been totally removed and you do not have a history of highly abnormal cells, it’s okay to stop routine cervical cancer screening. If you still have your cervix, you will need to continue having regular Pap tests
Talk to your healthcare provider about your need for Pap tests.

Myth: There is no history of cervical cancer in my family so I don’t need to worry about it.
Fact: You can still be at risk for cervical cancer even if no one in your family has had it. Cervical cancer is caused by certain types of human papillomavirus (HPV) that are spread by intimate sexual contact (which includes any skin-to-skin contact in the genital area), there is no inheritable link.

Myth: Women who have the HPV vaccine do not need to get a Pap test.
Fact: The HPV vaccine does not protect against all the types of HPV that cause cervical cancer. Women still need Pap tests regularly even if they have been vaccinated against HPV.

Myth: If I have an abnormal Pap test, it means I have cervical cancer.
Fact: An abnormal Pap test means the cells taken from your cervix look different from normal cells when seen under a microscope. An abnormal Pap test could indicate a precancerous condition that can be treated but can develop into cervical cancer over many years if left untreated. All women with abnormal Pap test should be followed-up closely.

Myth: The Pap test can tell you if you have HPV or other Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI)
Fact: The Pap test only detects cell changes in the cervix and does not tell if you have an STI, including HPV. Other tests can check for other STIs (i.e. Chlamydia or Gonorrhoea). The Pap test sample may be used to test for high-risk HPV.

Myth: If I have HPV, I will get cervical cancer.
Fact: Over 70% of sexually active people will get HPV in their lifetime. Most people infected never show any symptoms. The body’s immune system usually clears the virus within 2 years. About 15 high-risk types of HPV can cause cervical cell changes if the HPV infection does not go away. If untreated these cell changes can develop into cervical cancer over many years. However, with regular screening cervical cell changes can be treated so that cancer does not develop.

Myth: Once a woman is infected with the HPV virus, she is infected for life.
Fact: The majority of young women who contract the human papillomavirus (HPV) will clear the initial infection within 6 months.

Myth: Cervical cancer is contagious.
Fact: Human papillomavirus (HPV) that causes cervical cancer is transmitted through sexual contact, the cancerous cells themselves are not contagious.

MYTH: Only people who have multiple sexual partners get HPV.
FACT: You can be infected with HPV from one sexual partner, the first time you are sexually active. Condoms offer some but not total protection from HPV, as they don’t cover all of the genital skin.

MYTH: The vaccine can give you the virus and cause cancer.
FACT: The vaccine does not contain a live or killed virus. The vaccine contains a virus like particles of different types of the human papilloma virus.  When you take the vaccine, your body makes antibodies which fight the real virus if you're ever exposed to it.
Myth: Pap test is painful
Fact: You should not feel any pain on taking a cervical smear. A gentle scraping of the surface of your cervix should provide your healthcare provider with an adequate amount of cells. Relax by taking deep breaths and spread your legs apart during the test so that your vagina can be opened easily.