Cervical cancer is preventable, but vaccinations and screenings are key

There will be about 13,170 new cases of cervical cancer this year. Learn what you can do to take charge of your cervical health.

According to the American Cancer Society, there will be about 13,170 news cases of cervical cancer in 2019. But, regular screenings and vaccinations for children and young adults go a long way in improving the outlook for cervical cancer. January is Cervical Health Awareness Month. Erica L. Takimoto, D.O., gynecological oncologist for Norton Cancer Institute, shares important information on cervical cancer.

What are the early signs of cervical cancer?

Often there are no signs, which is why regular screening is so important. Abnormal screening pap smears, bleeding after intercourse, irregular bleeding, discharge or pain can be signs associated with cervical cancer.

Should women be aware of any risk factors for cervical cancer?

The biggest risk factor is human papilloma virus (HPV) exposure. This is the most important and is something that is prevalent in the population. There are hundreds of strains of HPV. Some of these are considered “high risk” strains for developing cervical cancer. Most sexually active women will be exposed to HPV at some time in their life. In addition to the HPV virus, smoking, and immunocompromised states (HIV, transplant patients on anti-rejection medications or other immunosuppressive medications) are additional risk factors for developing cervical cancer.

When should women get a pap test to be screened for cervical cancer?

The American Society for Colposcopy and Cervical Pathology (ASCCP) is the organization that sets forth recommendations for cervical pap screening. Another organization is the United States Preventative Services Task Force (USPSTF). Both recommend that screening begin at age 21. Based on the results, a patient can then continue with routine screening or begin more intensive surveillance or intervention if necessary.

Are there steps that can be taken to prevent cervical cancer?

The best steps that can be taken to prevent cervical cancer include the following:

  • Vaccinations (the Gardasil vaccination can be given to boys and girls as young as nine and young adults up to age 26)
  • Minimizing exposure (abstaining, wearing barrier protection such as condoms, having fewer partners)
  • Following recommended screening guidelines

Norton Cancer Institute

Norton Healthcare is the leading provider of cervical cancer care in Louisville and Southern Indiana.

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What new treatments, therapies or research are you seeing that people should know about?

Standard treatment for cervical cancer typically includes surgery (only if it is caught early enough), radiation with chemotherapy, or chemotherapy alone. If the cancer returns or progresses, additional chemotherapies or clinical trials may be available.

How will the HPV vaccine for boys prevent cervical cancer?

We hope that by vaccinating both girls and boys, that there will ultimately be a decrease in incidence and prevalence of the viruses that cause cervical cancer. So far in studies, vaccine efficacy against HPV is very high — 90.4 percent.


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