January not only marks the beginning of a new year, but also serves as a reminder to be screened for cervical cancer.
This month is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month. Cervical cancer is caused by human papillomavirus, or HPV, a sexually transmitted virus that has grown more and more common in recent years.
Screenings, such as Pap smears or H-P-V tests, as well as vaccines, have made cervical cancer a preventable one.
Dr. Ann Moriarty, a practicing cytopathologist, said thankfully, our country is fortunate enough to have advanced screening tools.
“It’s a relatively simple test,” she said. “Although women don’t like to have it, it’s done during their pelvic examination. A swab is taken just to take some cells from the cervix. At the same time, if a woman is going to have an HPV test, then that specimen will be used for the HPV test, as well.”
Dr. Moriarty said women who are sexually active should begin cervical cancer screening at age 21.
Here is a full list of guidelines of “What Women Need to Know” about screening:
· Women who are sexually active should begin cervical cancer screening at age 21.
· Women between the ages of 21 and 29 should have a Pap test every three years. HPV testing should not be used as a screening test in women between 21-29 years.
· Women between the ages of 30 and 65 may have a Pap test and an HPV test (called a co-test) every five years if the test results are normal. Alternatively, women of this age group may have a Pap test (without an HPV test) every three years.
· Women over age 65 who have had regular screenings with normal results should not be screened for cervical cancer. Women who have been diagnosed with cervical pre-cancer should continue to be monitored and screened.
· The HPV vaccine is most effective when administered to children before they are sexually active (9-12 years). It protects both girls and boys. Parents should speak with their child’s pediatrician to find out what is right for their daughter or son.
· Ask your physician if your cervical cancer screening test will be performed by an accredited laboratory to ensure accurate test results. The CAP accredits more than 7,500 laboratories worldwide and sets standards that exceed U.S. government regulations.
· HPV can also cause throat cancer, actor Michael Douglas was diagnosed with this type of cancer.
· While there is no screening test of HPV-related throat cancer, the HPV vaccine does protect against the strains of the virus that can cause it.