Cervical Cancer: The Myths & The Facts

Written by Dr. Naveeda Adam on Tue, 01 August 2023


While cervical cancer is now touted to be the fourth most common cancer among women, there are also a lot of common myths and facts about cervical cancer that need to be debunked, and proven with facts, for adequate cervical cancer awareness.

For complete awareness, it is also extremely important to be aware of the warning signs of cancer women shouldn't ignore. For instance, another cancer that has been rearing its ugly head is colon cancer, and it is important to be aware of colon cancer and how to know if you are at risk

Here are some of the top cervical cancer myths and facts you need to know:

Myth 1: Get a pap test every year at least once

Fact: It has been proven that if both the pap and HPV test come out normal, there's no need to get one done every year. In fact, there are some specific cervical cancer guidelines for women who have tested normal for both the tests previously, and the relevant measures for prevention. For e.g., according to the age group, the following is recommended:

  • Ages 21-29: Pap test every 3 years.
  • Ages 30-64: Pap test and HPV test every 5 years.
  • Ages 65 and above: Consultation with the doctor on the need to continue getting tested or not.

Myth 2: HPV infection is not common & happens to only those with multiple sexual partners

Fact: This made many believe that one should not worry about the HPV vaccine or Pap test. Well as a fact, that's actually not true, and the rate at which HPV infections spread is around 80% in both women and men approximately.

Myth 3: HPV infection gets cleared from the body on its own

Fact: Although not completely untrue, the important consideration here is that although it does clear up on its own without one knowing that they were exposed to it, the virus can still persist for many years before showing its true nature by casing genital warts and even many other types of cancers as well.

Myth 4: You cannot have a baby if diagnosed with cervical cancer

Fact: On a brighter note, long gone are the days when cervical cancer patients had to undergo many complicated surgical procedures such as hysterectomy, chemo and radiation therapies to the pelvic area. These days, newer treatment options allow the doctors to save the patient's fertility by using advanced reproductive technologies which allows egg freezing eggs of the patient, aiding the doctors to remove the ovaries from the radiation field in order to protect the eggs from any harm.

Myth 5: Cervical cancer is hereditary and its cause is unknown

Fact: Unlike breast and ovarian cancer, cervical cancer is not hereditary. It is caused by the HPV virus which is a sexually transmitted infection like we told you at the start. You can read more on everything you need to know about HPV types, testing and associated risks.

Also, as a safety measure make sure you get your child vaccinated with the HPV vaccine to guard them from a future infection. Moreover, if you are too old to get the vaccine, then just make sure you get the HPV and cervical smear or Pap smear tests done regularly like pointed in Point 1.

Myth 6: If you have HPV infection, you are sure to get cervical cancer

Fact: In order to break the bridges of misinformation, many reports suggest and have proven that there are more than 100 different varieties of HPV virus. Well, some do possess a high risk of causing the cancer whereas some don't. Moreover, our body's protector, also known as the immune system clears it within two years naturally. It is only in some occasional cases that the virus remains inside the body for a long time and starts making some abnormal changes in the cervix cells which are almost very difficult to see or feel.

Myth 7: If there are no symptoms, there is no need to get tested

Fact: Cervical cancer screening is done to check and assess any abnormal changes in the body, even when people do not show any symptoms. For those who exhibit symptoms, a diagnostic test is carried out to investigate the cause behind those symptoms. An abnormal cervical cell usually does not cause any symptoms. However, such changes can be detected easily via a screening test. Hence, the importance of screening regularly as suggested according to a specific age group or getting the HPV vaccine to stay sure and safe from the infection and cancer is extremely important.

Now that you are aware of the most common cervical cancer myths and facts, all you will need to do now to keep yourself protected from this deadly cancer is to opt for preventive screening tests as soon as you can. After all, it takes just 10 minutes for a screening, but those 10 minutes can actually save your life!


Dr. Naveeda Adam

Dr Naveeda Adam is currently Medical Officer of the Gastrology Department at the Muhimbili National Hospital, Dar es Salam, Tanzania.

Did you like our Article?





Not Sure




Leave a Comment

  1. BC Cancer Screening : Facts & Myths
  2. CDC: Basic Information About Cervical Cancer
  3. Cohen, P. A., Jhingran, A., Oaknin, A., & Denny, L. (2019). Cervical cancer. The Lancet, 393(10167), 169-182.
  4. Chirwa, S., Mwanahamuntu, M., Kapambwe, S., Mkumba, G., Stringer, J., Sahasrabuddhe, V., … & Parham, G. (2010). Myths and misconceptions about cervical cancer among Zambian women: rapid assessment by peer educators. Global health promotion, 17(2_suppl), 47-50.
  5. Curry, S. J., Krist, A. H., Owens, D. K., Barry, M. J., Caughey, A. B., Davidson, K. W., … & US Preventive Services Task Force. (2018). Screening for cervical cancer: US Preventive Services Task Force recommendation statement. Jama, 320(7), 674-686.
  6. Perkins, R. B., Guido, R. S., Castle, P. E., Chelmow, D., Einstein, M. H., Garcia, F., … & Schiffman, M. (2020). 2019 ASCCP risk-based management consensus guidelines for abnormal cervical cancer screening tests and cancer precursors. Journal of lower genital tract disease, 24(2), 102.
  7. Benard, V. B., Saraiya, M., Greek, A., Hawkins, N. A., Roland, K. B., Manninen, D., … & Unger, E. R. (2014). Overview of the CDC Cervical Cancer (Cx3) Study: an educational intervention of HPV testing for cervical cancer screening. Journal of Women's Health, 23(3), 197-203.
  8. Bentivegna, E., Maulard, A., Pautier, P., Chargari, C., Gouy, S., & Morice, P. (2016). Fertility results and pregnancy outcomes after conservative treatment of cervical cancer: a systematic review of the literature. Fertility and sterility, 106(5), 1195-1211.
  9. Gien, L. T., & Covens, A. (2010). Fertility-sparing options for early stage cervical cancer. Gynecologic oncology, 117(2), 350-357.
  10. Remschmidt, C., Fesenfeld, M., Kaufmann, A. M., & Deleré, Y. (2014). Sexual behavior and factors associated with young age at first intercourse and HPV vaccine uptake among young women in Germany: implications for HPV vaccination policies. BMC Public Health, 14(1), 1-7.
  11. Boda, D., Docea, A. O., Calina, D., Ilie, M. A., Caruntu, C., Zurac, S., … & Tsatsakis, A. M. (2018). Human papilloma virus: Apprehending the link with carcinogenesis and unveiling new research avenues. International journal of oncology, 52(3), 637-655.