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January is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month

According to the NIH (National Institutes of Health) study, cervical cancer was once the leading cause of cancer death for women in the US. However, in many decades, cases of cervical cancer and related deaths have decreased dramatically. This is due in great part to women getting regular pap smears that discover cervical dysplasia (pre-cancerous cell formation) and then receiving treatment before it becomes cancer. The HPV vaccine is also expected to impact the numbers of women diagnosed with cervical cancer and as the young women who have had the vaccine age, this will hopefully also reduce the number of cases of dysplasia diagnosed.

Physical exams and pap smears are the most reliable way to detect cervical cancer or cervical dysplasia.

Cervical dysplasia, the pre-cancerous formation of cells in the cervix or endocervical canal, is typically without symptoms. Should this condition advance to cervical cancer then you may see symptoms including: abnormal vaginal bleeding, unusual vaginal discharge and pain during sex. Cervical dysplasia is readily diagnosed by a pap smear done during a physical exam by your gynecologist. Once diagnosed, dysplasia can be treated and then monitored by pap smears until the results show a return to normal cell growth.

The CDC (Centers for Disease Control) reports that 91% of cervical cancers and 75% of vaginal cancers are caused by strains of the Human Papillomavirus (HPV). HPV is the most common sexually transmitted virus in the US. The CDC estimates that 79million adults in the US have HPV and an additional 14 million per year are exposed. The HPV vaccine is the only preventive treatment to avoid HPV exposure. This vaccine is approved for girls/women ages 11 – 26 and boys/men ages 11 – 21. It is recommended that all individuals in these age groups receive the vaccine, prior to becoming sexually active, if possible. It is recommended that always using a condom during sex and minimizing the number of sexual partners can help to reduce the chance of exposure to HPV.

We recommend that women visit their gynecologist regularly to check their cervical health. This is a very treatable condition if diagnosed and treated prior to cervical cancer occurring.

Contact our office for any questions or to schedule a physical exam with pap smear.