What You Need to Know About Cervical Cancer and HPV

January is Cervical Cancer Screening Awareness Month. According to the most recent data from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly 12,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer each year. What used to be the leading cause of cancer deaths for women has seen a dramatic drop in cases over the last four decades, as a result of more women receiving regular pap tests. These tests can detect cervical pre-cancers, leading to earlier treatment and favorable outcomes.

Symptoms of Cervical Cancer

Patients may experience no symptoms of early cervical cancer, which is why regular pap tests are critical for early detection. However, advanced stages of cervical cancer may cause symptoms patients will notice, such as bleeding or abnormal discharge. Here is a graphic to help identify various symptoms of gynecologic cancer. {Source: CDC}

Preventing Cervical Cancer

The good news regarding cervical cancer is there are two ways to prevent it. First, as previously mentioned through regular pap tests, detect and treat pre-cancers before they become advanced cancers. Second, prevent any changes that would cause pre-cancers, such as the human papilloma virus (HPV)

HPV is the main cause for cervical cancer and pre-cancer. Younger women are more likely to contract an HPV infection, whereas the infection in women over the age of 30 is less likely. Vaccinations have been developed to prevent infections from HPV, however, they cannot treat an infection. The Federal Advisory Committee on Immunizations Practices recommends females 11 and 12 years old get vaccinated. Additionally, the ACIP recommends females 13 to 26, who have not been vaccinated, get “catch-up” vaccinations.

American Cancer Society Guidelines for Early Detection

Begin cervical cancer screening by the age of 21 for all women.

Women 21 to 29 years of age should have a pap test every 3 years.

Co-testing, with the use of a regular pap test and HPV test is recommended every five years for women 30 and older.

Health care providers should recommend screening more often for those women at high risk of cervical cancer (suppressed immune system, organ transplant, or long term steroid use).

Women 65 and older, who have maintained a regular screening routine, may stop cervical cancer screening if pre-cancers have not been detected previously.

Women who have had a total hysterectomy, unless it was due to treatment of cervical pre-cancer, should stop cervical screening. Women who have had a hysterectomy in which the cervix was not removed, should continue screening according to the guidelines.

It is not recommended women be screened every year.

Women vaccinated against HPV should follow guidelines for screening.

To make an appointment online with a Utica Park Clinic health care provider, please visit here or call 918-579-DOCS.