January is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month

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Cervical cancer is almost always caused by an infection with high-risk types of the human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV is a very common virus that is spread through sexual contact.  Most HPV infections clear up on their own without symptoms; however, persistent infection can cause cervical cancer in women. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), there are about 13,000 new cases of cervical cancer diagnosed each year in the United States. Around 4,000 women die from this type of cancer every year. 

There is a vaccine that protects against high-risk HPV types.  Additionally, screening programs can detect signs of the disease at early stages. If detected early and managed well, cervical cancer is one of the most treatable forms of cancer. 

HPV Vaccine
The HPV vaccine does not treat existing infections or disease.  It prevents new HPV infections. The vaccine works best when given to someone before they have been exposed to the virus.
The current recommendations for HPV vaccination are:

  • Children aged 11 - 12 years should get two doses of HPV vaccine, given at least 6 months apart.
  • Children who start the HPV vaccine series when they are 15 years or older need three doses, given over 6 months.
  • If not fully vaccinated, everyone through age 26 should get the HPV vaccine. 
  • Some adults aged 27 - 45 may choose to get the HPV vaccine after talking with their doctor about possible benefits. 
Screening
The HPV test and Pap test can help detect cervical cancer in the early stages. The HPV test checks for the HPV virus, and the Pap test looks for precancers (cell changes on the cervix that can cause cancer if not treated). Both tests can be completed at the doctor's office or clinic. 
When to get screened:
          If you are 21 - 29 years old
    • You should get Pap tests starting at age 21.  If your results are normal, your healthcare provider may tell you that you can wait 3 years until your next Pap test.
          If you are 30 - 65 years old
          Your healthcare provider will talk about which testing option is right for you. Options include:
    • An HPV test only. If your result is normal, your healthcare provider may tell you that you can wait 5 years until your next test.
    • An HPV test + a Pap test. If both results are normal, your healthcare provider may tell you that you can wait 5 years until your next test.
    • A Pap test only. If your results are normal, your healthcare provider may tell you that you can wait 3 years until your next Pap test.
          If you are older than 65
          Your healthcare provider may tell you that you don't need screened anymore if:
    • You have had normal test results for the past several years, and
    • You have not had a cervical precancer in the past, or
    • You have had your cervix removed as part of a total hysterectomy for a non-cancerous condition

Vaccination and screening are the two best ways to reduce cervical cancer.  For more information, or to schedule a vaccination or screening appointment, please call us at 419-947-1545, extension 327.