Routine pap smears can help identify pre-cancerous cells before they become cervical cancer.

Testing for and vaccinating against HPV, a virus that can cause cervical cancer, also helps prevent the disease.

The CDC says people should start getting pap smears when they’re 21.  If it’s normal, you can wait three years before repeating one.

If you’re between ages 30 and 65, you can get either a pap smear every three years, or combined HPV testing and pap smears every 5 years, or a cervical HPV test every 5 years.

If you do not have insurance, don’t worry about cost! You may qualify for free or low-cost cervical cancer screening through the CDC’s national breast and cervical cancer early detection program.

You can also help prevent cervical cancer by getting the HPV vaccine.

The HPV vaccine is safe and recommended for preteens, both boys and girls, starting age 9. You can get it through age 26.

But even if you already received the HPV vaccine, you should still get screening for cervical cancer regularly.