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Cervical cancer prevention

There's no 1 way to stop you from getting cervical cancer.

But you can cut your risk by:

Get the HPV vaccine

The HPV vaccine is given free to young people in their first year of secondary school.

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 getting cervical cancer. This is why screening is important.

HPV and screening

Attend cervical screening

If you are age 25 to 65, the best way to protect against getting cervical cancer is to go for cervical screening when it’s due.

A cervical screening test (which used to be called a smear test) checks your cervix for any high-risk types of HPV. The cervix is the opening to your womb from your vagina.

9 in 10 cervical cancers are caused by these types of HPV.

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

Cervical screening

Get help to quit smoking

People who do not smoke have a lower chance of developing cervical cancer.

If you smoke you are less able to get rid of HPV from your body. HPV can develop into cancer over 15 to 20 years.

But you can reduce your risk of developing cervical cancer if you stop smoking.

You can sign up to a quit plan. This offers advice on the best ways to stop smoking.

Get help to quit smoking

Sexual contact

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

You can get HPV from any kind of physical or sexual contact of the genital area - even if you use a condom.

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

Sexual contact includes:

  • any skin-to-skin contact of the genital area
  • vaginal, oral or anal sex
  • sharing 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.

But HPV is not the only cause of cervical cancer. You can get cervical cancer if you have never had sex.

Not all cervical cancers are caused by HPV but 9 in 10 are. Screening detects cancers and pre-cancers caused by HPV.

HPV and your partner

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

Page last reviewed: 22 November 2023
Next review due: 22 November 2026

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