Preventing Cervical Cancer

Posted 1/24/2019 in OB

January is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month and Regional Medical Center (RMC) is reminding you to add a New Year’s resolution to your list: Don’t put off your annual OB-GYN exam. Every year, 42,700 people are affected by HPV related cancers. On the other hand, with preventative screenings like pap tests and HPV vaccines, 93% of cervical cancers could be prevented. Below are some frequently asked questions about cervical cancer, screening options, and prevention - answered by Dr. Grace Wang, OB-GYN specialist at Regional Family Health in Manchester.

What is cervical cancer?

In many cases, cervical cancer is caused by infection with HPV, otherwise known as the human papillomavirus. HPV enters cells and causes them to change. Cervical cancer occurs when those cells become abnormal and - over time - grow out of control. Cancer cells may spread to other organs in some advanced cases.

What does a cervical cancer screening entail?

The cervical cancer screening is used to identify changes in the cells of the cervix that could lead to cancer. Screening includes a Pap smear or an HPV test. Both of these tests are fast and simple, but are so important!

Why is this type of screening so important for women?

Typically it takes 3-7 years for severe changes in cervical cells to become cancer, so this type of screening may detect these changes early on. Women with low grade changes can be tested more frequently to watch the cells for changes. Women with high grade changes can get treatment from there.

How often should a woman get a cervical cancer screening?

Current medical guidelines are that women 21-29 years old should have a Pap test alone every 2 years. HPV testing isn’t recommended at that point. Women that are over 30 years old should have a Pap test and an HPV test at the same time every 5 years.

Is cervical cancer preventative?

Yes! There is an HPV vaccine available today for girls and boys. The CDC recommends that all kids who are 11 or 12 years old should get two shots of HPV vaccine 6 to 12 months apart. If your teen hasn’t gotten the vaccine yet, talk to your provider or nurse about getting it for them as soon as possible. Even if they didn’t start or finish the series of shots when they were younger, they should get it now. This one vaccine prevents against six types of cancer.

Schedule your exam today with your provider at Regional Family Health! Call 563-927-7777.