Cervical Cancer - Prevention
The good news about cervical cancer is that it is a highly preventable cancer - thanks to a recent vaccine.
Persistent infection with high-risk types of HPV is responsible for nearly all cervical cancers. Because of this, the most effective way to prevent cervical cancer is to prevent the spread of HPV.
Start by asking your doctor about getting vaccinated for HPV. The vaccine can be given to girls as young as 9 years old, though it’s typically recommended for girls in their 11th or 12th years. Vaccinations can also be given for women up to 26 years, and recently, the vaccine has also been approved for boys and young men.
The vaccine is highly effective in protecting against some high-risk forms of HPV that cause cancer. For the greatest effect, the vaccine should be given before potential exposure to HPV through sexual contact.
Most cervical cancers develop slowly. That’s good news. It means nearly all cases can be prevented with regular Pap testing. Women should begin Pap tests at age 21 whether they have been vaccinated for HPV or not, and regardless of sexual history.
Women under the age of 21 are at a very low risk of developing cervical cancer. Pap test screening before age 21 could lead to unnecessary and harmful treatment, so the Pap test should be avoided.
To reduce the occurrence of false abnormal tests, screening is now recommended every 2 years (as opposed to every year).
If your Pap test result is abnormal, your doctor will make recommendations for your next steps, including future Pap test screenings.
Cervical cancer rates have decreased in the United States due to widespread use of Pap testing which can detect changes of the cervix before they develop into cancer. Whereas, in developing countries such as Sub-Sahara Africa, cervical cancer rates continue to increase.
Each year, 1.25 million American women will be diagnosed with cervical precancer by cells found on the Pap test
Most insurance plans cover the recommended Pap test, but if you do not have health insurance, or meet low-income guidelines, there is help. Visit our Cervical Cancer Next Steps section to learn more about assistance available, and how to locate a Federally Funded Health Center.
Beyond getting a regular Pap test, you can help yourself by making life choices that will decrease your chances of developing cervical cancer:
-Follow up with your doctor if you have abnormal Pap test results
-Limit your number of sexual partners
-Learn more about HPV infectionLast Updated on Wednesday, 28 September 2011 13:00