Can Cervical Cancer be Prevented?

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January is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month.

Cervical cancer was once the leading cause of cancer death for women in the United States. Now, thanks to cervical cancer screening -Pap Smear, HPV testing, and HPV vaccination, it is the most preventable of all female cancers.

According to the National Cervical Cancer Coalition, no woman should die of cervical cancer.

Here is what you need to know:

Risk Factors

Infection with HPV (human papillomavirus) virus.


Infection with HIV (human immunodeficiency virus)

Giving birth to three or more children

Using birth control for five or more years

Having multiple sexual partners


Pap Smear

Hop into those stirrups at your gynecologist’s office and get your yearly pap smear. Sure, stirrups are cold, and speculums look like medieval ducks, but you don’t need to fear your Pap smear. The Pap can detect abnormal changes in the cells of the cervix BEFORE cancer develops as well as in the early stages. If your Pap test shows abnormal cells, additional tests may be performed, such as a Colposcopy, Cervical biopsy, Colposcopic biopsy, Endocervical curettage, Cone biopsy, or a LEEP (Loop Electro-Surgical Excision Procedure.) Make sure you get the proper follow-up.

If you or someone you know needs help finding low-cost screening, click this link for state-to-state assistance: National Cervical Cancer Coalition. 

HPV Test

Since the cell changes are caused by human papillomavirus, commonly known as HPV, the traditional test for early detection has been the Pap test. For women ages 30 and over, an HPV test is also recommended. HPV tests can find any of the high-risk types of HPV that are commonly found in cervical cancer. Many doctors perform both tests at the same time, even using the same sample.

HPV Vaccination

According to the National Cervical Cancer Coalition and the American Sexual Health Association, “The HPV vaccine is more than 90% effective at preventing HPV related infections which can lead to cervical cancer, anal, vulvar and vaginal cancers and genital warts. The vaccine is recommended at 11 or 12 years of age but may be given through age 45. The vaccine is given in a series of three shots over six months for those over age 15 or only two doses for those under age 15. People with a cervix who get the vaccine must still get regular Pap tests.”

Please be sure that you see your gynecologist for your yearly check-up. Women in their 60’s and 70’s can get cervical cancer.

What can you do to prevent cervical cancer? Vaccinate early – pap test regularly – and HPV test when recommended. Do your part –help raise awareness and educate your family, friends, and co-workers.

My Motto:  Suffering in silence is OUT! Reaching out is IN! 

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* does not recommend, endorse, or make any representation about any tests, studies, practices, procedures, treatments, services, opinions, healthcare providers, physicians, or medical institutions that may be mentioned or referenced.

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