Preventing Cervical Cancer
- This month is Cervical Cancer Awareness month. While the cervical cancer-preventing HPV vaccine is traditionally administered to adolescents and teenagers, adults can still benefit from receiving it as well.
- Every year in the U.S., approximately 14,480 women will be diagnosed with cervical cancer.
- Symptoms of cervical cancer include abnormal vaginal bleeding, unusual vaginal discharge, pain during sex, and pain in the pelvic region.
Who Should Get the HPV Vaccine?
While the HPV vaccine is traditionally administered to adolescent girls, teenagers, and young women, older adults who don’t have HPV can still very much benefit from receiving it as well.
The HPV vaccine is approved in the U.S. for people up to age 45, though it’s recommended that children get it before they become sexually active, as the vaccine can prevent a lot of these cancers. Gardasil 9 protects against nine strains of HPV – including the strains most likely to cause cancer and genital warts. But it can’t provide protection if a person has already been exposed to HPV. That’s why doctors recommend it for children as young as 9.
In an earlier interview, Dr. Allen Ho, a head and neck surgeon at Cedars-Sinai, explains the potential impact of HPV. He says, “The vast majority of humans in the U.S., both men, and women, will eventually get infected with human papillomavirus. The important thing to know about HPV,” says Dr. Ho, “is that there are many different strains, and only a couple of them tend to be more cancer-inducing.”
“Probably less than 1% of the population who get infected happen to have the cancer-causing virus that somehow their immune system fails to clear, and over 15 to 20 years [it] develops from a viral infection into a tumor, and a cancer,” explains Dr. Ho.
Understanding Cervical Cancer
Every year in the U.S., approximately 14,480 women will be diagnosed with cervical cancer. And nearly a third of women diagnosed will pass away from this disease.
Screening for cervical cancer is done via pap smear and HPV DNA testing, which is recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) as the best screening option for cervical cancer. Cervical cancer treatments may include surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy. Getting screened for cervical cancer is critically important because an earlier diagnosis may mean a better prognosis and broader treatment options.
The most common symptoms of cervical cancer can include:
- Abnormal vaginal bleeding, such as bleeding after vaginal sex, bleeding after menopause, bleeding and spotting between periods, or having (menstrual) periods that are longer or heavier than usual. Bleeding after douching may also occur.
- An unusual discharge from the vagina − the discharge may contain some blood and may occur between your periods or after menopause.
- Pain during sex.
- Pain in the pelvic region.