Warning notification:Warning

Unfortunately, you are using an outdated browser. Please, upgrade your browser to improve your experience with HSE. The list of supported browsers:

  1. Chrome
  2. Edge
  3. FireFox
  4. Opera
  5. Safari

Cervical cancer - Prevention

There's no single way to completely prevent cervical cancer.

But you can reduce your risk of developing cervical cancer through:

Cervical screening

A cervical screening test (which used to be called a smear test) checks the health of your cervix.

It is one of the best ways to protect yourself from cervical cancer.

CervicalCheck is Ireland's national cervical screening programme. It offers free regular cervical screening tests to anyone with a cervix between the age of 25 and 65.

Read more about cervical screening

HPV vaccine

The HPV vaccine is given free to eligible children in their first year of secondary school.

Used with regular screening later in life, it is an effective way to prevent cervical cancer developing.

The vaccine is most effective in young people between 9 and 15 years old.

If you are not eligible to get it for free in school, you can get the vaccine privately. But you will have to pay for it. The vaccine may also be less effective the older you are. Speak to your GP about the risks and benefits of getting the vaccine at the age you are.

If you are aged 25 to 65, the best way to protect against developing cervical cancer is to attend regular cervical screening when it’s due.

The HPV vaccine protects against 9 types of HPV. But it does not protect you from all types of HPV. So you're still at risk of developing cervical cancer. This is why screening is important.

Read more about the HPV vaccine

Quit smoking

Not smoking can reduce your chances of getting cervical cancer.

People who smoke are less able to get rid of HPV from the body. HPV can develop into cancer over 10 to 15 years.

Join the quit plan. This offers advice on the best ways to stop smoking.

Get more information and advice on giving up smoking

Practice safe sex

Most cases of cervical cancer are linked to an infection with certain types of HPV.

The virus is not just passed on through penetrative sex. It can be transmitted during any type of sexual contact.

This includes:

  • any skin-to-skin contact between genitals
  • oral, vaginal or anal sex
  • using sex toys

Your risk of getting HPV increases the earlier you start having sex and the more sexual partners you have.

Even if you only have had 1 sexual partner, you can still get HPV.

Using a condom can reduce your risk of developing the infection.

Content supplied by the NHS and adapted for Ireland by the HSE

Page last reviewed: 30 December 2019
Next review due: 30 December 2022

This project has received funding from the Government of Ireland’s Sláintecare Integration Fund 2019 under Grant Agreement Number 123.