AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) – Cervical cancer is the 4th most common cancer in women. Dr. Baker from Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center explains some risk factors and more information about cervical cancer.
All women are at risk for cervical cancer. It occurs most often in women over age 30. Long-lasting infection with certain types of human papillomavirus (HPV) is the main cause of cervical cancer. At least half of sexually active people will have HPV at some point in their lives. HPV usually causes no symptoms so you can’t tell that you have it. For most women, HPV will go away on its own; however, if it does not, there is a chance that over time it may cause cervical cancer. There are other risk factors though:
· You have a history of an abnormal pap exam
· You are not regularly screened for cervical cancer
· You are a smoker
· Your first sexual activity occurred at an early age
· Your first pregnancy occurred at age 15 or younger
· You have had several sexual partners
· You have given birth to three or more children
· You’ve been diagnosed with HPV
The most important thing you can do to help prevent cervical cancer is to have regular screening tests starting at age 21. Two screening tests can help prevent cervical cancer or find it early—
· The Pap test (or Pap smear) looks for precancers, cell changes on the cervix that might become cervical cancer if they are not treated appropriately. · The HPV test looks for the virus (human papillomavirus) that can cause these cell changes.
Both tests can be done in a doctor’s office or clinic.
Another prevention method is the HPV Vaccine.
· HPV vaccination is recommended for preteens aged 11 to 12 years, but can be given starting at age 9.
· HPV vaccine also is recommended for everyone through age 26 years, if they are not vaccinated already.
· HPV vaccination is not recommended for everyone older than age 26 years. However, some adults age 27 through 45 years who are not already vaccinated may decide to get the HPV vaccine after speaking with their doctor about their risk for new HPV infections and the possible benefits of vaccination. HPV vaccination in this age range provides less benefit, as more people have already been exposed to HPV.
It is worth noting, HPV vaccination prevents new HPV infections, but does not treat existing infections or diseases. This is why the HPV vaccine works best when given before any exposure to HPV. You should get screened for cervical cancer regularly, even if you received an HPV vaccine.
TTUHSC has a limited number of free cervical cancer screenings available this month for the public.
Breast Center of Excellence
At Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center 806-414-9556