Prevention is key: HPV & cervical cancer

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Most cases of cervical cancer are caused by a virus known as HPV. More than 79 million people in the U.S. have HPV.


Screening tests can detect HPV and cervical cancer, and the HPV vaccine can prevent it. Still, the American Cancer society says more than 13,000 new cases of invasive cervical cancer were diagnosed in 2018. Plus, more than 4,000 women died from this cancer.


It’s time to learn more about treating, preventing and screening for this cancer so more lives can be saved.


What is HPV?

Human papilloma virus, or HPV, is a common virus. It is spread through sexual contact.


There are different types of HPV. Sometimes, the body is able to get rid of the HPV infection on its own. But, this doesn’t always happen.


Some types of HPV cause genital warts. Others cause changes in the cervix that can turn into cancer if not treated early.


Get tested, get treated

At one time, cervical cancer was a leading cause of cancer deaths for American women. But, when the Pap test was developed, cervical cancer deaths dropped significantly.


A Pap screening test can find changes in the cervix before they become cancer. It can also find cervical cancer early. This means the cancer can be treated when it’s easier to cure. Ask your doctor about how often you should get a Pap test. Sometimes, the cells from a Pap test are also tested for HPV.


A Pap test is usually done during a pelvic exam. The doctor uses a swab to get some cells from the cervix. The cells are sent to a lab and tested for cancer and/or HPV.


A shot for cancer

Today, there is a vaccine that may prevent cervical cancer. The HPV vaccine can prevent infection and provide immunity against many types of HPV.


Clinical trials show the HPV vaccine provides almost  100 percent protection against cervical changes that can lead to cancer and genital warts.


Ask your doctor about the HPV vaccine for yourself or your kids. The vaccines can be given to kids as young as 9. Both boys and girls can benefit from the HPV vaccine because HPV can also cause cancers of the penis, anus and throat.


Sources: American Cancer Society, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Cervical Cancer Coalition

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