UW Combined Fund Drive

December 29, 2022

Reduce cervical cancer risk through screening and vaccination

More than 14,000 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with invasive cervical cancer each year. With appropriate screening and vaccination, however, the disease is preventable. 

Cervical cancer occurs when abnormal cells in the lining of the cervix grow in an uncontrolled way. The cervix is part of the female reproductive system.

Anyone with a cervix can get cervical cancer. It is most frequently diagnosed between the ages of 35 and 55, is rare for people over 65 and exceptionally rare for people under 20. Worldwide, cervical cancer is the third most common type of cancer in women, though the instance of it in the U.S. is much lower.

Usually, cervical cancer develops slowly over time, starting as a pre-cancerous condition called dysplasia that is nearly 100% treatable.

Established risk factors include having a sexual history—cervical cancer is primarily caused by the virus HPV, or human papilloma virus, which is spread through sexual contact and skin-to-skin contact—as well as smoking, which nearly doubles a person’s risk of the cancer, and having a weakened immune system.

Watch: Preventing and Detecting Gynecologic Cancers (UW Medicine)

According to the American Cancer Society, people with early cervical cancers and pre-cancers usually have no symptoms. Symptoms often do not begin until the cancer becomes larger and grows into nearby tissue. When this happens, the most common symptoms are:

  • Abnormal vaginal bleeding, such as bleeding after vaginal sex, bleeding after menopause, bleeding and spotting between periods, or having menstrual periods that are longer or heavier than usual.
  • An unusual discharge from the vagina, which may contain blood and may occur between your periods or after menopause.
  • Pain during sex
  • Pain in the pelvic region

Symptoms of advanced cancer may include back pain, bone fractures, fatigue, heavy vaginal bleeding, urine leakage, leg pain, loss of appetite, and pelvic pain.

Cervical cancer is one of the most preventable cancers today

In the past 40 years in the U.S., there has been a steady decline in instances of cervical cancers, largely due to prevention—primarily HPV vaccination, which increases in effectiveness the earlier it is administered—and screening.


Cervical cancer can be prevented by doing the following, according to Mt. Sinai Health:

  • Get the HPV vaccine. The vaccine prevents most types of HPV infection that cause cervical cancer. Your provider can tell you if the vaccine is right for you.
  • Practice safer sex. Using condoms during sex reduces the risk for HPV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
  • Limit the number of sexual partners you have. Avoid partners who are active in high-risk sexual behaviors.
  • Get Pap smears, during which cells are collected from the surface of the cervix and examined, as often as your provider recommends. Pap smears can help detect early changes, which can be treated before they turn into cervical cancer.
  • Get the HPV test if recommended by your provider. It can be used along with the Pap test to screen for cervical cancer in women 30 years and older.
  • If you smoke, quit. Smoking increases your chance of getting cervical cancer.


Consider making a one-time contribution or setting up payroll deduction to one of our CFD member organizations working to prevent, detect and treat cervical and other cancers:

Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center (charity code 0315947): conducts research of the highest standards to improve prevention, detection and treatment of cancer and related diseases resulting in reduced pain and suffering caused by these diseases. Seattle Cancer Care Alliance (SCCA) is now part of Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.

Cancer Lifeline (charity code 0316157): Based in Seattle since 1973, Cancer Lifeline has been a leader in providing non-medical support services to cancer patients, survivors, family members, friends and co-workers. Our mission is to optimize the quality of life for all people living with cancer.

Cancer Pathways (charity code 0341929): Gildas Club Seattle provides a warm meeting place where men, women and children living with cancer, along with their families, partners and friends, join with others to build social and emotional support as a supplement to medical care.

The American Association for Cancer Research (charity code 0496919) funds ground-breaking scientific cancer research that saves lives. By contributing, you can help speed up the pace of scientific discovery, and fight cancer.

The American Institute for Cancer Research (charity code 0517602): Replacing cancer myths with cancer facts. We’re funding innovative research and education to expand understanding of nutrition and cancer. WSCFD contributions are used for research purposes.

Cancer Care, Inc. (charity code 1481238): Caring for people facing cancer. Supporting patients, children, loved ones, caregivers. We provide help and hope through free counseling, wigs, education, financial assistance.

Kay Yow Cancer Fund (charity code 1483017):  The vision of the Kay Yow Cancer Fund is to be the premier non-profit organization dedicated to supporting innovative ways of fighting ALL cancers affecting women and providing support through giving strength, courage, and hope.

Prevent Cancer Foundation (charity code 0315905): Your donation funds cancer prevention research educates people about how they can prevent cancer and detect it early and supports community cancer prevention programs.

Stand Up To Cancer (charity code 1481809): Stand Up To Cancer funds nearly 800 scientists across 101 major institution that collaborate to develop new and promising cancer treatments for patients at a fast pace.