According to the American Cancer Society, over 13,000 women will be diagnosed with cervical cancer in 2019. For over 4,000, the disease will be terminal. Cervical Cancer is the 4th most common type of cancer in women, however it is also the most treatable if caught in time. Due to its slow development, cervical cancer can be diagnosed very early. Getting regular pap tests, also referred to as pap smears, can significantly reduce your chances of ever getting cervical cancer.
The Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the US and has been found in roughly 99% of cervical cancers. According to the National Cervical Cancer Coalition, by age 50, 80% of women have been infected with some type of HPV.
With over 100 different variations of the virus, most are considered low risk for cervical cancer, but some types, such as HPV-16 and HPV-18 are referred to as high risk HPV types and can be found in more than 70% of cervical cancer cases.
Cervical cancer naturally has a slow development in the body which means with regular testing, it can be identified and treated. Since the development and rapid adoption of the pap test, cervical cancer deaths have dropped 2% each year in the United States.
Cervical cancer screening is used to identify changes in cells of the cervix. Screening usually includes a pap test and/or testing for HPV. A pap test involves lying on an exam table while the doctor uses a speculum to open your vagina. The doctor then uses a brush and a spatula to scrape a sample of cells from your cervix. This procedure typically doesn’t hurt, but may cause some discomfort.
Your doctor will run tests to identify any abnormal cells and should be able to give you results within a short period of time after your screening.
If you are in your twenties, you should get a pap test every 3 years. If you are between the ages of 30-65, you should have a pap test and an HPV test every 5 years. If you are over the age of 65, have no history of cervical cancer and have had at least 3 negative pap test results in a row, you can stop with cervical cancer screening. Be sure to check with your doctor before making that decision.
Modern medicine has allowed the possibility to become pregnant after being diagnosed with cervical cancer. However, the severity of the cancer at the time of diagnosis can make it much more difficult to carry a baby to term. If you can catch cervical cancer in its early stages, you have a better chance of staying fertile. If the cancer is caught at a later stage, the cancer treatment itself could prevent pregnancy from occurring.
Cervical cancer screening is a very important part of regular health checkups. If you have any questions or concerns about cervical cancer or need any other health advice, talk to your OB-GYN.
Choosing a healthcare professional is an important decision. Christopher K. Quinsey MD, P.A. has been serving women in the northern Orlando area for over 21 years. If you are interested in a consultation, contact us today.
*This blog is for general informational purposes only. Christopher K. Quinsey MD, P.A. does not distribute medical advice through this blog. As such, this blog does not constitute a patient-client relationship between the reader and Christopher K. Quinsey MD, P.A.