Women: Get Pap tests every three years starting at 21-years-old
Women: Get HPV tests after 30-years-old; check with doctor about frequency
Children: Vaccinate against HPV starting at 12-years-old
Poster overview of Gynecologic Cancers, and their signs and symptoms
Cervical Cancer Awareness month. Represented by the color teal, the nation-wide initiative aims to increase
awareness about cervical cancer, HPV, and the importance of early detection.
Local chapters and events also raise funds for research into cause, prevention,
diagnosis, treatment, and to eventually find a cure.
Early-detection is key for prevention and treatment of cervical cancer.
“Cervical cancer is one of the easiest gynecological cancers to
prevent with regular screening tests,” Dr. Monique Small, CBHA obstetrician/gynecologist,
said. “There are two screening tests proven effective to detect
cervical cancer early.” The first is a Pap test. With this test,
cells are collected and sent to a laboratory to look for any abnormalities.
“We recommend young women begin screening with this test at the
age of 21,” Dr. Small suggested. “Follow-up screenings then
occur every three years, regardless of the age of onset in sexual activity.”
The second test screens for Human Papilloma Virus, or HPV. “The human
papilloma virus (HPV) is the leading cause of cervical cancer,”
Dr. Small said. “The Pap and HPV tests can be combined for early
detection. If both of these tests are normal, no further testing is necessary
again for another five years.”
Dr. Small says the HPV screening exam is recommended to start around the
age of 30. She advises that women work with a gynecologist or primary
care provider to find out the recommended frequency of screenings after
age 30. “There are many guidelines out there, and it can be confusing
for patients because they change frequently,” Dr. Small said. “We
like to look at our patients’ medical history, and make a decision
with them about how often they should be screened.” The important
takeaway is that women remember to get the screening done!
Protect Our Children – Available Vaccines
HPV is one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases, and causes
almost all incidents of cervical cancer. When a female is infected with
HPV, and the virus does not go away on its own, abnormal cells develop
in the lining of her cervix. If these cells are not caught early by a
Pap test or HPV screening, and then subsequently treated, pre-cancer and
cancerous cells can develop.
There are currently two vaccines available to help prevent certain types
of cervical cancer: Gardasil and Cervarix. The FDA (Food Drug Administration)
has approved Gardasil for use in females and males from ages nine to 26.
The vaccine prevents four types of HPV that can lead to the development
of cervical and other varieties of cancer.
Cervarix is also FDA-approved for prevention of cervical cancer caused
by two different types of HPV. The CDC (Center for Disease Control) recommends
that all kids, starting at 11- or 12-years-old, should get the three-dose
series of the Cervarix vaccine to protect against HPV. For teen boys and
girls who did not start or finish the HPV vaccine series when they were
younger, they should get it now. Young women can get the HPV-vaccine series
through the age of 26, and young men can get vaccinated through age 21.
The subject of disease prevention, and especially of sexually transmitted
diseases, is a sensitive issue. “We advise our patients to talk
to their medical providers about the vaccines, and decide which one will
be the best fit for their child,” Dr. Small said. “These vaccines
are proving effective against preventing cervical cancer in adulthood.”
Get involved in the Cervical Cancer Awareness campaign by wearing the teal
ribbon, distributing handouts and flyers within your community, attending
fundraiser event, sharing information about cervical cancer and HPV on
social media, and visiting your medical provider for screening tests and
Call 509-488-5256 to schedule an appointment with a medical provider at
your local CBHA clinic.