What is Cervical Cancer?
Cervical cancer, cancerous cells found in the cervix, can be caused by HPV, a sexually transmitted infection. Cervical cancer is responsible for about 4,000 deaths each year in the U.S. Early on, a person with cervical cancer may not experience any noticeable symptoms; however, as the cancer progresses, a person may experience pelvic pain or abnormal vaginal bleeding.
Detecting Cervical Cancer
Because Cervical cancer does not cause symptoms early on, a pap smear is usually the best way to detect early cervical cancer or precancerous cells in the cervix. Most doctors have historically recommended getting a pap smear once a year.
However, due to new research and discovering that HPV status is the best way to determine whether a woman is a risk for developing cervical cancer, the recommendations have changed within the last few years.
Currently, many doctors will recommend that women ages 21 to 30 get a pap smear test every three years and women ages 30 to 65 get a pap smear test every three years or a pap smear and HPV testing every five years. Most doctors will stop testing patients over the age of 65 as long as they are not at major risk and have never had cervical cancer before.
Prevention and Early Detection can save lives
HPV and pap smear testing can detect precancerous or cancerous cells long before you would ever otherwise know about them. So the number one thing you can do for your health is to see your gynecologist as often as is recommended.
There are several other preventative measures you can take to avoid HPV and cervical cancer:
- Practice safe sex
- Quit smoking
- Maintain a healthy immune system
- Get the HPV preventative vaccine
It can be easy to think, “it will never happen to me.” But as new research has made early detection easier, it is especially important to make that quick doctor visit to be tested; it could save your life.