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 afflicted over 13,000 women in 2017 and kills more than 4,000 women every year.
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: Consult your women’s health professional regarding a screening regiment that’s right for you. You may be able to stop testing IF you have had both regular and negative Pap screening for 20 yrs.
Still another powerful way to prevent cervical cancer is the HPV vaccine.
Given in a series of shots, the HPV vaccine is advised for all preteen 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 through age 45.
Sources: American Cancer Society; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; U.S. Food and Drug Administration