January is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month.
Cervical cancer was once the leading cause of cancer death for women in the United States. Now, thanks to cervical cancer screening -Pap Smear, HPV testing, and HPV vaccination, it is the most preventable of all female cancers.
According to the National Cervical Cancer Coalition, no woman should die of cervical cancer.
Here is what you need to know:
Infection with HPV (human papillomavirus) virus.
Infection with HIV (human immunodeficiency virus)
Giving birth to three or more children
Using birth control for five or more years
Having multiple sexual partners
Hop into those stirrups at your gynecologist’s office and get your yearly pap smear. Sure, stirrups are cold, and speculums look like medieval ducks, but you don’t need to fear your Pap smear. The Pap can detect abnormal changes in the cells of the cervix BEFORE cancer develops as well as in the early stages. If your Pap test shows abnormal cells, additional tests may be performed, such as a Colposcopy, Cervical biopsy, Colposcopic biopsy, Endocervical curettage, Cone biopsy, or a LEEP (Loop Electro-Surgical Excision Procedure.) Make sure you get the proper follow-up.
If you or someone you know needs help finding low-cost screening, click this link for state-to-state assistance: National Cervical Cancer Coalition.
Since the cell changes are caused by human papillomavirus, commonly known as HPV, the traditional test for early detection has been the Pap test. For women ages 30 and over, an HPV test is also recommended. HPV tests can find any of the high-risk types of HPV that are commonly found in cervical cancer. Many doctors perform both tests at the same time, even using the same sample.
According to the National Cervical Cancer Coalition and the American Sexual Health Association, “The HPV vaccine is more than 90% effective at preventing HPV related infections which can lead to cervical cancer, anal, vulvar and vaginal cancers and genital warts. The vaccine is recommended at 11 or 12 years of age but may be given through age 45. The vaccine is given in a series of three shots over six months for those over age 15 or only two doses for those under age 15. People with a cervix who get the vaccine must still get regular Pap tests.”
Please be sure that you see your gynecologist for your yearly check-up. Women in their 60’s and 70’s can get cervical cancer.
What can you do to prevent cervical cancer? Vaccinate early – pap test regularly – and HPV test when recommended. Do your part –help raise awareness and educate your family, friends, and co-workers.
My Motto: Suffering in silence is OUT! Reaching out is IN!
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2 thoughts on “Can Cervical Cancer be Prevented?”
I had my yearly GYN checkup at 68 years old and my Dr told me there was no need to have a Pap smear at my age. Is this a decision made by the insurance companies and Medicare/government?
This is concerning if the decision was based for monetary reasons versus being backed by science and data.
Great question, Paula. In my opinion, the decision of what is covered or not is geared toward what is cost-effective medicine for insurance companies, not what is in a woman’s best proactive healthcare interest.
Here is what I know: The only sure way to find out if you have cervical cancer is to get a screening test (a Pap test and/or an HPV test). So, why wouldn’t I get it every year with my yearly Gyn check-up?
In a recent study reported in the National Library of Medicine:
1. The older women get, the more likely they have never been tested or haven’t been tested in the previous five years.
2. About one woman out of 20 between 66 and 70 years old has never been tested.
3. An older woman, until she’s in her 80s, who has not had a hysterectomy, is at least as likely to get cervical cancer as a younger woman.
4. Cervical cancer incidence rates increased with age and were higher for Black women than White women.
I don’t base my preventative healthcare decisions on the actuarial calculations of healthcare insurers. My preventative healthcare decisions are based on my desire to stay healthy and the insurance company’s decisions are based on their financial bottom line. I am 69 years old and shall continue to request and receive cervical cancer screening each year at my yearly gynecologist appointment. I shall request and receive yearly breast cancer screening, too.