Cervical cancer: Take steps to prevent it

CMH Women's Center Providers

The CMH Women’s Center providers include (left to right) Dr. Kellie Edwards, Certified Nurse Midwives Patricia Boullie and Corrine Almquist, Dr. Sarah Humphrey, Dr. Nathan Amrine and Dr. Robert Holland.

Cervical cancer is largely preventable

From the OB/GYN physicians and Certified Nurse Midwives at the CMH Women’s Center

The most important thing to know about cervical cancer may be this: it’s largely preventable. Here’s a look at how to protect yourself — or your daughter — from a disease that kills more than 4,000 women every year. 

Get screened

A Pap test can find pre-cancerous changes in the cells of the cervix that can be treated before they have the chance to turn into cancer. Most cases of cervical cancer are found in women who haven’t had regular Pap tests. 

Your doctor may also advise testing for the human papillomavirus (HPV). This sexually spread infection is to blame for most cases of cervical cancer.

The American Cancer Society advises the following cervical cancer and HPV screening schedule if you’re:

  • 21 to 39 years old: get a Pap test every three years
  • 30 to 65 years old: get a Pap test and an HPV test every five years or a Pap test alone every three years
  • Over 65 years old: stop testing if you’ve had regular test results for the past 10 years and no aggressive pre-cancers in the past 20 years

Get vaccinated

Still another powerful way to prevent cervical cancer is the HPV vaccine. In addition to protecting against cervical cancer, it helps prevent: 

  • Cancers of the vagina and vulva in women
  • Cancer of the penis in men
  • Cancers of the anus, tongue, tonsils and back of the throat in both men and women

Given in a series of shots, the HPV vaccine is advised for all preteen boys and girls ages 11 to 12. Catch-up vaccines are typically given through age 21 for men and 26 for women. And the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently approved the Gardasil 9 HPV vaccine for men and women through age 45. 

Sources: American Cancer Society; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; U.S. Food and Drug Administration