The human papillomavirus (HPV)

Cervical cancer is caused by infection with the human papillomavirus (HPV), which is spread by genital-skin to genital-skin contact.

HPV can cause changes in the cells of the cervix, which can in some cases develop into cervical cancer over many years if left untreated.

The only way to know whether these cell changes are there is to have regular Pap tests. If the changes are found at an early stage, they can usually be treated quickly and easily.

A vaccine has been created that protects against the HPV types that cause 70% of cervical cancer. Women should continue to have regular Pap tests, even after the HPV vaccine.

The vaccine also provides some protection against other less common cancers that can affect both men and/or women, including penile, vaginal, vulval and anal cancers. The vaccine also protects against up to 90% of genital warts in men and women.

For more information see the HPV and cervical cancer information sheet.

Cancer Council Helpline