Fitness Facts: Cervical cancer
By Jo Gott
Adult Nurse Practitioner – Board Certified, Canyon Health and Wellness Clinic
We see celebrities willing to share their stories of breast cancer, but cervical cancer rarely gets headlines. Articles like this, hopefully, will educate the public about the importance of screening and prevention of cervical cancer.
First, the statistics: Worldwide, one woman dies every two minutes of cervical cancer. In the United States, according to the American Cancer Society, about 13,000 new cases are diagnosed every year and approximately 4,000 women die each year. African American women have the highest incidence of cervical cancer.
Fortunately, cervical cancer is no longer the leading cause of cancer death among women, and this is the result of many women getting regular Pap testing.
Cervical cancer occurs when abnormal cells on the cervix grow out of control. Cervical cancer often can be successfully treated when it is found early. The current recommendation is to start Pap testing at the age of 21. For an average risk woman, most can be tested every three years (see the guidelines here).
Most cervical cancer is caused by a virus called human papillomavirus, or HPV. You can get HPV by having sexual contact with someone who has it. There are many types of HPV viruses, and not all types cause cervical cancer.
Fortunately, there are several vaccines on the market to fight the cancer-causing HPV viruses. It is recommended to give two doses of these vaccines to both girls and boys before they are sexually active.
The following are recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
- HPV vaccine is recommended for routine vaccination at age 11 or 12 years
- Vaccinate females ages 13 through 26 and males ages 13 through 21, if not vaccinated previously
- Vaccination is also recommended through age 26 years for gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men, transgender people and for immunocompromised persons (including those with HIV infection) not adequately vaccinated previously.
To help fight cervical cancer, please encourage those you love to be tested and vaccinated.