January is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month. It was once a primary cause of cancer death for women in the United States. Nowadays, screening and prevention have significantly reduced the impact of cervical cancer. Nevertheless, according to the National Cancer Institute, about 14,100 women in the U.S. received a cervical cancer diagnosis, and nearly 4,300 died from it last year.
It is a disease in which cancer cells arise in the cervix, which connects the uterus to the vagina, and it is among several conditions that infections with viruses, pathogens, bacteria, and parasites can cause.
HPV and cervical cancer
Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common reproductive tract viral infection. Sexually active women and men could be infected at some point, and some may be repeatedly infected.
There are different types of HPV, and not all cause problems. HPV infections usually disappear without any intervention within a few months after the acquisition, and about 90% clear within two years. However, a small percentage of HPV types can persist and advance to cervical cancer.
Most cervical cancer cases (99%) are linked to infection with human papillomavirus (HPV), a prevalent virus transmitted through sexual contact. HPV vaccines can help prevent infections that can lead to cervical cancer. The vaccine is available for everyone aged 9 through 45, but for people 15 – 26, an entire three-dose series is needed if the vaccine was not received sooner (more information)
The American Cancer Society has updated its guidelines for cervical cancer screening.
The new guidelines are for women with an average risk of cervical cancer (no family history; no prior, adverse screenings). More than 14,000 women in the United States are diagnosed with invasive cervical cancer each year, but the disease is preventable with vaccination and appropriate screening.
For women aged 25 to 65 years, the preferred screening recommendation is to get a primary human papillomavirus (HPV) test every 5 years. A primary HPV test is an HPV test that is done by itself for screening. The US Food and Drug Administration has approved certain tests to be primary tests.
The guidelines also include these two other acceptable screening methods and schedules:
A co-test every 5 years that combines an HPV test with a Pap test.
A pap test alone every 3 years.
The most important thing to remember is to get screened regularly, no matter which test you get. Women who have gotten the HPV vaccine should still follow the screening guidelines as listed above.
Almost all cervical cancers are caused by an HPV infection. Most people will never know they have HPV because the body can usually fight the infection before any symptoms occur. But high-risk types of HPV (such as HPV 16 and HPV 18) can cause serious pre-cancers and cancers of the cervix.
The goal of cervical cancer screening is to find pre-cancers that are likely to progress to cancer and to remove or treat them before they do. Screening can also find cervical cancer at an early stage, when it is easier to treat. Now is the time to talk with your health care provider about your risk for cervical cancer and the screening guidelines that will protect you best.
If you or a family member is diagnosed with cervical cancer, Signature Health Services can care for you in the comfort of your own home and inform you about management and medication administration.
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