Cervical cancer is in many ways unlike other cancers. It strikes women in midlife when they are often taking care of families. Cervical cancer is also one of the few types of cancers that is caused by a virus. Fortunately, cervical cancer is one of the most preventable cancers and also, when caught and treated early, one of the most curable cancers. Now is the perfect time to educateyourself about this disease and what you can do to protect yourself.
More African American women die from cervical cancer than any other racial group in the United States. One of the most important steps in preventing cervical cancer is to have regular Pap tests. A Pap test is usually painless and is easily done in a doctor's office or clinic during a pelvic exam.
There are over 100 types of HPV, more than 30 of which can spread through genital contact. Some sexually transmitted HPV types cause genital warts, and others cause cervical cancer. The HPV test examines cervical cells for the types of HPV that cause cancer.
Genital HPV infections are very common and are sexually transmitted. Many people who have an HPV infection may not be aware of it. Most HPV infections occur without any symptoms or problems and go away on their own without leading to cancer. Some infections can persist for many years and may or may not cause cell changes. Infections that cause cell changes can increase the risk for developing cervical cancer.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved two vaccines, Gardasil® and Cervarix®, to prevent infection with the types of HPV that cause most cases of cervical cancer. Gardasil also protects against infection with the HPV types that cause most genital warts. Both vaccines are most effective if they are given before an individual is sexually active. Gardasil is approved for use in females and males ages 9 through 26, and Cervarix is approved for use in females ages 10 through 25.
To learn more, call 1-800-4-CANCER to speak with a Cancer Information Specialist