Information provided by Dr. Dana Kraus
In the past, cervical cancer was a leading cause of cancer death for women in the United States. Thanks to the combination of screening and prevention, cases of and deaths from cervical cancer have decreased significantly. Still, according to the National Cancer Institute, nearly 14,500 women in the United States were diagnosed with cervical cancer, and more than 4,200 died from the disease last year.
Cervical cancer is usually caused by Human Papillomavirus (HPV), a virus that is sexually transmitted. Cervical cancer usually develops slowly, starting with slightly abnormal cells and progressing to cancer over many years. If caught early, it can be treated before it turns into full-blown cancer.
What can you do to prevent cervical cancer?
GET VACCINATED AGAINST HPV:
A vaccine that protects against 90% of HVP infections is available. Remember, HPV is a virus that causes most cases of cervical cancer. A vaccine that prevents cancer, how cool is that!?
Both females and males should get vaccinated against HPV. Why should males be vaccinated when they don’t have a cervix? There are two reasons—vaccination protects future sexual partners from HPV, and it protects men from getting HPV-related cancers that are found in males.
Women aged 21 to 65, should have a regular PAP smear which can detect abnormal cells in the cervix before they turn into cancer, when treatment is easier and more successful. There are various recommendations for when this screening should be done, depending on age and past screening results.
Talk to your health care provider about recommendations specific to you for both the HPV vaccine and PAP smear screenings.
What are we doing at Northern Counties Health Care to encourage cervical health?
In addition to providing ongoing cervical health screenings and HPV vaccinations to our patients, we are doing specific outreach this month. We are contacting all of our patients overdue for their PAP smear to invite them to make an appointment. So if that includes you, expect a friendly call or letter from us soon!
Remember the old saying: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure…Start the New Year off well—make an appointment today for your PAP smear or HPV vaccine!
Contact your primary care or women’s health provider with your cervical health questions or to schedule an appointment. Contact information for Northern Counties Health Care’s practices throughout the Northeast Kingdom can be found here.
Dr. Dana Kraus is a Family Physician at St. Johnsbury Community Health Center located at 185 Sherman Drive in St. Johnsbury. She is also the Medical Quality Lead for Northern Counties Health Care.