Martha Jefferson Monday: Why is Cervical Cancer Screening Important?

Cervical cancer is the number three killer of women across the globe. However, thanks to prevention and screenings, it's rarely a problem in the United States.

"Cervical cancer is a cancer that starts on the bottom of the uterus, called the cervix," commented Dr. Andrea Tribastone, a physician at Forest Lakes Family Medicine. "It's the third leading cause of cancer of women worldwide."

Although it's a major concern across the globe, in the United States, only 1.5% of death in women with cancer is caused by cervical cancer.

"In the 1940's we started screening women with pap smears, which is just taking a sample of cells from the bottom of the uterus, again the cervix, and looking at it under the microscope to look for abnormal cells and cancer pre-cursor," shared Dr. Tribastone. "It dramatically decreased the rates of cervical cancer in the United States."

In addition to pap smears, testing for HPV, or the human papillomavirus , is also an important part of the process.

"We now know that about 95% of cervical cancer is caused by a viral infection from HPV," noted Dr. Tribastone.

The latest guidelines recommend women begin getting screened for cervical cancer with a pap smear at age 21. Once they hit age 30, both a pap smear and an HPV test are recommended until the age of 65.

"What we have found is that women who go through regular screening, really never progress to cervical cancer," said Dr. Tribastone.

Although they might seem like small tasks, these screenings really do prevent cancer from developing.

"Cervical cancer is a cancer of women who do not get screened," commented Dr. Tribastone.

In addition to screenings, using condoms if you are sexually active and not smoking are key in reducing your risk for cervical cancer.

For more information on this topic, call Health Connection at (434) 654-7009.

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