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Cervical Cancer: Planning, Preparation and Prevention

patient at annual exam

Cervical cancer is completely different from many other cancers, as it’s preventable. First, the cervix can be seen directly by your OB/GYN or primary care physician without invasive testing by performing a Pap smear. Pap smears are very effective at evaluating abnormal cells that may develop into cancer. This is why it’s so important to schedule a regular exam with your OB/GYN. (Over 60% of patients with cervical cancer have never had a Pap smear.) Known risk factors for cervical cancer include persistent infection by HPV. In fact, HPV is the most common sexually transmitted disease in the United States.

Once a diagnosis is made, a medication, lifestyle change, or surgery will usually fix the problem.  If the diagnosis is cancer, especially when diagnosed in the later stages, treatment plans are not so simple. There is no quick easy fix, no simple cure, and no easy way out. Some cancers like ovarian cancer are typically diagnosed in the later stages because there are few early symptoms. Treatment with chemotherapy and surgery can prolong life, but rarely result in a complete cure.

Breakthroughs in Medicine Provide Prevention for Cervical Cancer

In the past several years, a breakthrough in medicine has provided a way to fight back and prevent cervical cancer. High-risk HPV strains including 16 and 18 have been associated with the majority of cervical cancers. Other HPV strains including 6 and 11 are associated with genital warts or growths on the vulva, cervix or penis. The Guardisil vaccine provides patients a way to actively protect themselves from these four strains of viruses. Additionally, the Cervarix vaccine will protect against the two strains that cause cervical cancer. It is recommended for male and female individuals between the ages of 9 and 26. These vaccinations protect young men and women before there are exposed during sexual activity. Most insurance companies, including Medicaid, will pay for the vaccine. If you don’t have medical insurance, there are still ways to pay for the vaccine. Talk to your healthcare provider about your options.

Get Help Today

The HPV vaccine offers promise and protection from a known direct cause of cervical cancer. With it, we can fight and prevent a cancer that has taken the lives of too many women. Please don’t hesitate to contact your OB/GYN, pediatrician, primary care physician, or local health department with questions or concerns about these vaccines. There are also plenty of online resources available for parents and caregivers. We have included some helpful resources below:

National Cervical Cancer Coalition
World Health Organization – HPV and Cervical Cancer Facts
The HPV Connection – The Oral Cancer Foundation

To schedule an appointment with one of our board-certified OB/GYNs at either our Canton or Woodstock office, call us today at 770.720.7733 or request an appointment online.