Here is fact file on cervical cancer:
Cervical cancer is cancer that starts in the cervix, the lower, narrow part of the uterus. It happens when the body’s cervical cells divide very fast and grow out of control. These extra cells form a tumor.
Each year, about 12,000 women in the United States get cervical cancer. Cervical cancer affects most women between the ages of 30 and 45, but all women can be at risk.
Most cases of cervical cancer are caused by a high-risk type of HPV. HPV is a virus that is passed from person to person through genital contact, such as vaginal, anal, or oral sex. If the HPV infection does not go away on its own, it may cause cervical cancer over time.
Other factors may increase the risk of developing cancer following a high-risk HPV infection. These include:
- Being HIV positive or having reduced immunity
- Taking birth control pills for a long time (more than five years)
- Having given birth to three or more children
There are not many noticeable signs or symptoms of cervical cancer. Signs of advanced cervical cancer may include bleeding or bloody vaginal discharge. These symptoms may not be caused by cervical cancer, but the only way to be sure is to see your doctor.
Women should begin being screened at age 21. You can get a Pap test to look for changes in cervical cells that could become cancerous if not treated. If the Pap test finds major changes in the cells of the cervix, your doctor may suggest more tests to look for cancer. Women between the ages of 30 and 65 can also get an HPV test with your Pap test to see if you have HPV.
The Pap test and the HPV test look for different things.
A Pap test checks the cervix for abnormal cell changes that, if not found and treated, can lead to cervical cancer. The doctor extracts cells from the cervix to examine under a microscope. How often you need a Pap test depends on your age and health history. Talk with your doctor about what is best for you.
An HPV test looks for HPV on a woman’s cervix. Certain types of HPV can lead to cervical cancer. Your doctor will swab the cervix for cells. An HPV test is not the same as the HPV vaccine.
According to the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF), women between 30 to 65 years of age can combine the HPV test with a Pap test once every 5 years. The USPSTF does not recommend the HPV test for women under the age of thirty.
How often you need to be screened depends on your age and health history. Speak with your doctor about what is best for you. Most women can follow these guidelines:
- If you are between ages 21 and 29, you should get a Pap test every 3 years.
- If you are between ages 30 and 64, you should get a Pap test and HPV test together every 5 years or a Pap test alone every 3 years.
- If you are 65 or older, ask your doctor if you can stop having Pap tests.
If you had a hysterectomy, you should follow these guidelines:
- If you no longer have a cervix because you had a hysterectomy for reasons other than cancer, you do not need Pap tests.
- If you had a hysterectomy because of abnormal cervical cells or cervical cancer, you should have a yearly Pap test until you have three normal tests.
- If you had your uterus removed but you still have a cervix (this type of hysterectomy is not common), you need regular Pap tests until you are 65 and have had three normal Pap tests in a row with no abnormal results in the last 10 years.
You can lower your risk of getting cervical cancer with the following steps. The steps work best when used together. No single step can protect you from cervical cancer. The best ways to prevent cervical cancer include:
- Getring a HPV vaccine (if you are 26 or younger). Two vaccines- Cervarix and Gardasil, protect girls and young women against the types of HPV that cause most cervical cancers. The vaccines are recommended for girls who are 11 or 12 years old. The Gardasil vaccine is recommended for boys who are 11 or 12 years old. Both vaccines are licensed, safe, and effective.
- Get regular Pap tests. Regular Pap tests help your doctor find and treat any changing cells before they turn into cancer. Women who have had the HPV vaccine still need to have regular Pap tests.
- Be monogamous. This means that you only have sex with one partner and no one else. The best way to prevent any sexually transmitted infection (STI), including HPV, is to not have vaginal, oral, or anal sex. But, having sex with just one partner can lower your risk.
- Use condoms. Research shows that condom use can lower your risk of getting cervical cancer when used correctly and every time you have vaginal, anal, or oral sex. Protect yourself with a condom every time you have vaginal, anal, or oral sex.
Girls who are 11 or 12 years old should get three doses of either Cervarix or Gardasil. Girls and women, 13 through 26 should get the vaccine if they did not receive the recommended three doses when they were younger. The HPV vaccine is not recommended for pregnant women. Experts recommend boys who are 11 or 12 years old be vaccinated with three doses of Gardasil. Boys, between 13 and 21 years should get the vaccine if they did not get any or all of the shots when they were younger. Talk to your doctor to find out if getting vaccinated is right for you.