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New Study Shows Rise in HPV-Related Cancers; Vaccination, Screening Key to Prevention

Published: 01.09.13| Updated: 01.09.13

GRAND RAPIDS, Michigan  On the heels of a new report showing a rise in HPV-related cancers, Planned Parenthood of West and Northern Michigan (PPWNM) urges young people to get vaccinated against the sexually transmitted virus known as HPV (human papillomavirus).

"HPV-related cancers are preventable," said PPWNM Nurse Practitioner Shelley Paulsen. "That is what families need to take away from this study. The earlier young men and women are vaccinated against HPV, the better."

The report, published this week in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, shows the overall trend is a decrease in the rates of most cancers. But the "Annual Report to the Nation on the Status of Cancer, 19752000" concludes that, "Increases in incidence rates for some HPV-associated cancers and low vaccination coverage among adolescents underscore the need for additional prevention efforts for HPV-associated cancers, including efforts to increase vaccination coverage."

The study also points to Pap testing as contributing to substantial declines in cervical cancer in the United States and other developed countries over the past several decades.

"Early detection through the use of Pap testing is key to preventing deaths from cervical cancer," said Paulsen.

Pap tests allow clinicians to detect cervical cell changes caused by HPV, the virus causes cervical cancer. That's why it's important for women to know when and how often to take these important protective measures.

"The guidelines for screening have changed, and most women need it less frequently; but as this study shows, they should still make routine screening a priority," said Paulsen. 

PPWNM offers Pap testing and follows guidelines recommended by a number of cancer prevention organizations. They call for Pap screening to begin at age 21, and for most women to be screened every three years up to age 29. For women aged 30 to 64, most should have routine screenings performed every three years.

Every year, approximately 12,000 women in the U.S. are diagnosed with cervical cancer, and about 4,000 American women die of the disease. If detected early, the five-year survival rate for cervical cancer is almost 100 percent.

Because of a lack of routine screening for anal cancer, and the lack of any early detection method for oral cancers, the HPV vaccine is the most powerful weapon against these types of cancers.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends HPV vaccination for girls aged 11 and 12. However, the vaccine still may still be effective if received after that age but before exposure to the strains of HPV covered by the vaccine.

Women can get Pap screenings as part of their comprehensive well woman physical at Planned Parenthood. The HPV vaccine, Cervarix, is available at PPWNM health centers for women ages 1826. Call 800.230.PLAN (7526) for the Planned Parenthood health center nearest you.

January is Cervical Health Awareness Month and as a part of the effort to raise awareness and prevent cervical cancer, Planned Parenthood is offering resources that can help women take charge of their cervical health. They include an updated webpage that provides a one-stop shop for what women need to know about cervical cancer, and a new infographic that details the cervical-cancer-prevention steps that women and their daughters should take at different periods of their lives. Go to ppwnm.org and click the link in the blue "feature" box near the top of the page.

Journal of the National Cancer Institute
Abstract: http://jnci.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2013/01/03/jnci.djs491.abstract
Full report: http://jnci.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2013/01/03/jnci.djs491.full.pdf+html

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Planned Parenthood of West and Northern Michigan (PPWNM) provides sexual health care and sexuality education services, and advocates for access to these services for everyone. PPWNM, an affiliate of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, operates health centers in eight Michigan cities, providing medical and education services to thousands of women, men, and teenagers each year. Log on, learn more: ppwnm.org.

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