Cervical cancer is a serious concern for women. Every year, about 13,000 women in the U.S. are diagnosed with cervical cancer, and about 4,000 women in America die of the disease. About 1 in 4 women will get the types of human papilloma virus (HPV) that sometimes lead to cervical cancer. Latinas have the highest cervical cancer rates, followed by African-American women. African-American women have the highest death rates from cervical cancer, followed by Latinas. What can you do?
Procedures to Prevent Cervical Cancer
Women have effective tools to prevent cervical cancer. The first step is a Pap or HPV test. A Pap or HPV test can determine whether you have any HPV that may lead to cervical cancer.
If a woman has a Pap test with abnormal results, her health care provider can do a colposcopy. Colposcopy can be used to find abnormal cervical cells. Abnormal cervical cells may heal without treatment. But sometimes, abnormal cells can develop into cancer. Treatments for abnormal cells are highly effective at preventing cervical cancer. Two common types of treatment are cryotherapy and LEEP.
If you have questions or concerns about an abnormal Pap or HPV test result, Planned Parenthood is here to help. A medical professional at your nearby Planned Parenthood health center can discuss the facts about colposcopy, cryotherapy, and LEEP with you, and help you find the services you need.
Why a Pap Test?
Cervical Cancer Screening Saves Lives, yet in the U.S 13,000 women are diagnosed each year with cervical cancer.
4,000 women die each year from cervical cancer.
Pap tests detect cell changes in the cervix before cancer even develops. The changes can be treated and cancer can be prevented. This makes early cervical cancer screening so very beneficial.
Cervical cancer is the third-most common type of cancer among women worldwide, striking half a million women and killing 270,000 each year, and the fourth-leading cause of cancer deaths among women. Cervical cancer is caused by a common sexually transmitted infection, human papilloma virus (HPV). About 1 out of 4 women will get the types of HPV that are related to cervical cancer in her lifetime. But, today, only 1 out of 1,000 women in the U.S. who contracts cancer-related HPV will develop full-blown cervical cancer. This is because many women know how to prevent cervical cancer by having regular Pap tests and regularly using condoms.
Screening is crucial even when no symptoms are present. Most people feel fine even when they have cell changes caused by HPV. By the time symptoms appear, cancer may have begun to spread. That is why regular testing is strongly recommended.
The Pap test has been the single, greatest contributor to the decline in cervical cancer. From its inception in the mid-1950s until the early 1990s, cervical cancer deaths were reduced by more than 70%. And that rate continues to decline today. Screening should be done at least once every 2 or 3 years starting at age 21, or within 3 years after a woman begins to have sexual intercourse, whichever is earlier. This applies even if you're in a same-sex relationship but previously have had heterosexual sex.
Why the HPV Vaccine for Females and Males Ages 9-26?
High-risk types of genital HPV can cause cancer of the cervix, vagina, vulva, anus, penis, and throat. The type of cancer HPV causes most often is cervical cancer.
Most HPV infections go away by themselves and don't cause cancer. But abnormal cells can develop when high-risk types of HPV don't go away. If these abnormal cells are not detected and treated, they can lead to cancer.
Most of us recover from HPV infections with no health problems at all. It is not fully known why some people develop long-term HPV infection, precancerous abnormal cell changes, or cancer. But we do know that women who have diseases that make it difficult for them to fight infections are at higher risk of cervical cancer. We also know that cigarette smoking increases the risk of cervical cancer.
In October 2009, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved use of the first HPV vaccine (marketed as Gardasil) for boys or men age 9 through 26 for the prevention of genital warts caused by human papillomavirus (HPV) types 6 and 11.
How to Prevent Getting or Spreading HPV
- Get the HPV vaccine. It can protect women against two of the HPV types that cause 70 percent of all cases of cervical cancer.
- Abstain from sex play that involves skin-to-skin contact.
- If you choose to have vaginal or anal intercourse, use condoms every time. They can reduce the risk of HPV. They are not as effective against HPV as they are against other infections such as chlamydia and HIV. But they greatly reduce the risk of HPV infection. You can use condoms, Sheer Glyde dams, dental dams, or plastic wrap during oral sex to further reduce the risk.