Many cancers are difficult to prevent, detect or cure… none of these are true of cervical cancer. Women need to have regular medical testing and vaccination (if age-appropriate).
What is cervical cancer? The cervix is the lower part of the uterus—the part that connects with the vagina. The cervix can be affected by sexually transmitted infections, including the human papillomavirus (HPV), which is thought to be a precursor to cervical cancer. Cervical cancer can occur in women of any age.
The “Pap” test was introduced in the 1950s. During this test, cells from the end of the cervix are brushed and put into a specimen container. The Pap does not detect cancer of the uterus, ovaries, or any other part of the body.
We now know that abnormal cervical cells are usually caused by HPV. In some cases, the body fights off the HPV and clears it. In others, the HPV causes genital warts and changes of cervical cells.
Cervical cancer takes years to develop and has NO symptoms. Women should have a Pap test taken beginning at age 21 and may need a follow-up test more of less often than each year.
A vaccine to prevent HPV infection has become available in recent years. The vaccine protects against four types of HPV, but not all. The Centers for Disease Control recommends that Gardasil be given to girls at age 11, or up to age 26 if not previously vaccinated.
Vaccinate. Pap. Be aware.