Cervical cancer is a deadly disease that will affect 12,000 women this year. 4,000 of these women will not survive. We are spreading the word about the importance of early detection and screenings. Pap smears have cut the death rate from cervical cancer by 50% in the last 30 years. It is important to educate ourselves and others on how to reduce the risk of developing the disease.
Here are Five Fast Facts about Cervical Cancer You Need to Know:
Fact #1: Cervical cancer often has no overt warning signs.
Unlike other forms of cancer that announce their presence with some kind of physical indications, early cervical cancer doesn’t come with obvious symptoms. Warning signs typically don’t occur until it has advanced to the point where it has grown into other structures. These warning signs include abnormal bleeding between periods, abnormal discharge throughout the menstrual cycle or any pain or bleeding during intercourse
Fact #2: A Pap test is still the best “early warning” tool.
A Pap smear can find precancerous lesions before they become a cancer. Precancerous cells can be removed before cancer develops
Fact #3: HPV is by far the greatest risk factor for cervical cancer.
While there are other risk factors that can increase your chances for developing cervical cancer, HPV (human papillomavirus) is at the top of the list. Although HPV is a sexually transmitted virus, most women will have one form of the more than 70 types of the virus at some point in their lives. Most women are able to shed the virus naturally within a few years of infection without any symptoms or issues. When a woman’s body is unable to shed one of the cervical cancer causing strains of the virus, cervical cancer cells can begin to grow. The test for HPV can be done at the same time as the Pap test. If the test is positive, your doctor will tell you what HPV type you have and recommend an appropriate follow-up.
Fact #4: Two vaccines can protect against the types of HPV linked to cervical cancer.
Both Gardasil and Cervarix are approved for women and girls ages 9 to 26. Gardasil also helps protect boys and men against approximately 90 percent of genital warts cases. Men can be carriers and unknowingly spread the virus to their partner. The goal is to become vaccinated before you become sexually active, in order to prevent the types of HPV that cause cervical cancer.
Fact #5: You and your doctor should decide together how often you need to have a Pap test.
Current guidelines recommend that women should have a Pap test every 3 years beginning at age 21. These guidelines further recommend that women ages 30 to 65 should have HPV and Pap co-testing every 5 years or a Pap test alone every 3 years. Women with certain risk factors may need to have more frequent screenings or to continue screening beyond age 65. Women who have received the HPV vaccine still need regular cervical screening. Talk to your doctor and discuss these guidelines as they relate to your personal health history.