Preventing cervical cancer

How much do you know about cervical cancer? Cervical cancer is a preventable disease, it is the second most common type of cancer for women worldwide.

“This year more than 12,000 American women will be diagnosed and nearly 4,000 will die from an advanced form of the disease. When cervical cancer is found early, however, it is highly treatable and associated with long survival and good quality of life,” explained Dr. Lynn Parker, gynecology oncologist with UofL Physicians – OB/GYN and Women’s Health. “Regular cervical cancer screening is a crucial part of women’s health, but too often it’s overlooked.”

The Pap smear is one of the most reliable and effective cancer screening tests available. It looks for precancerous cell changes on the cervix that might become cervical cancer if they are not treated appropriately.

Women must remember to have regular exams throughout their lives. Cervical cancer develops very slowly; half of the women who are diagnosed with cervical cancer are between the ages of 35 and 55. Almost 20 percent of women are diagnosed when they are over 65, but it is recommended to begin having Pap smears at the age of 21.

One of the most important risk factors for cervical cancer is infection with a virus called HPV (human papilloma virus). About 20 million Americans currently have HPV, the most common sexually transmitted disease. To help prevent cervical cancer, vaccines are available to prevent HPV infection. Routine HPV vaccination is recommended for girls and boys at age 11 or 12. Vaccination also is recommended for females through age 26.

Encourage the women in your life to discuss cervical cancer screening or to schedule a Pap smear.

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