Wellness and Prevention
Prevent Cervical Cancer: Get Screened!
Each year, more than 12,000 women in the United States are diagnosed with cervical cancer and more than 4,000 die as a result. The highest risk group are women who have never had a Pap test or HPV screening.
Cervical cancer is caused by some types of the Human Papillomavirus (HPV), a group of viruses that infect the skin. HPV is spread through skin-to-skin contact and can infect anyone who has ever had any sexual contact. In most cases the virus causes no symptoms, but some high risk types cause changes in the cells of the cervix that can turn into cancer. Certain risk factors such as cigarette smoking or a weak immune system can accelerate this process.
“Screening cuts the incidence of cervical cancer by half,” says Dr. Molham Solomon, Saint Joseph’s Chief of Gynecology. “Getting a Pap test, and HPV screening are the best ways to prevent cervical cancer.” Women ages 21-29 should have a Pap test every three years, and women ages 30 to 65 should have both a Pap test and HPV screening every five years. Women over 65 do not need screening unless recommended by their physician. Everyone from age 9 to 26 are encouraged to get the HPV vaccination, which provides protection from most the high risk forms of HPV. Even vaccinated women should have cervical cancer screening according to the above guidelines.
A Pap test is looking for cervical cell changes due to HPV, Dr. Solomon explained. “Abnormal cells don’t necessarily mean that a woman has cervical cancer,” he said, “but further testing is needed to determine what is happening.” If found early, pre-cancerous cells can be treated and cervical cancer prevented.
So Don’t Wait, Get the Test
Visit your family doctor or gynecologist, or get tested at one of Saint Joseph’s primary care centers. Evening and weekend appointments are available. Click here for more information.