The purpose is to emphasize the importance of early detection and to spread the word throughout the 50 states. “(Cervical cancer) is a very curable thing if we catch it,” said Jenna Kintner, a Nurse Practitioner who visits Lawrence County Memorial Hospital each Tuesday, and specializes in obstetrics and gynecology. “That’s why getting your yearly exams and pap smears are so important.”
Vaccines can help prevent infection from the high-risk human papilloma virus (HPV) types that can lead to cervical cancer. The Center for Disease Controls recommends that all youngsters get the vaccine by age 12, as it produces a stronger immune response when taken in preteen years.
A pap test can find cell changes to the cervix caused by HPV. HPV tests find the virus and help healthcare providers know which women are at the highest risk for cervical cancer. Pap and HPV tests, either alone or in combination, are recommended for women over 30. Each woman should ask her health care provider how often she should be screened, and which tests are right for her. Kintner stresses that even women who have had a hysterectomy should continue with the testing. “Even after they have a hysterectomy, we still want them to have pap smears,” she said. “A lot of women think, ‘I’ve had a hysterectomy so I don’t need to.’ But you can still get cancer in the vaginal walls and things like that.” Kintner adds that a woman should visit her primary care provider at the first hint of trouble. “A lot of times people won’t come in until they have pain or bleeding or something of that nature,” she said. “By that time, sometimes, it’s in the later stages. That’s why it’s important to have the yearly exams, to catch it early.”
Along with the cervical exams, Kintner says annual breast are important for women as well. “Breast cancer is as prevalent as ever,” she said. “Just having a yearly exam to catch any abnormalities is a good idea.”
Cervical cancer facts:
- Cervical cancer is the easiest gynecologic cancer to prevent, with regular screening tests and follow-up. It is highly curable when found and treated early.
- All women are at risk for cervical cancer. It occurs most often in women over the age of 30. Each year, approximately 13,000 women in the United States get the disease. More than 4,000 of those women will die as a result of the diagnosis.
- Although the number of new cases has been declining for a few decades, cervical cancer is still the second-most common type of cancer for women worldwide.
- In its early stages, cervical cancer may not cause signs or symptoms. Advanced cervical cancer may cause bleeding or discharge that is not normal, as well as pelvic pain, back pain and painful urination.
- Women who smoke are about twice as likely as non-smokers to get cervical cancer. There is also evidence that long-term use of oral contraceptives as well as being overweight increase the risk.
- Women with a sister or mother who have had cervical cancer are two or three times more likely to develop the disease.
- Free or low-cost cervical cancer screening may be available through the National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program. For more information, call 800-232-4636 or visit www.cdc.gov/cancer/nbccedp.