Cervical cancer is the second most common cause of cancer-related disease and death among women worldwide. However, the number of cervical cancer cases and deaths has decreased significantly. This decline largely is the result of many women getting regular Pap tests, which can detect cervical precancerous cells before they turn into cancer. According to the American Cancer Society’s most recent statistics, about 12,710 new cases of invasive cervical cancer will be diagnosed and about 4,290 women will die from cervical cancer.
Cervical cancer – in most cases – is preventable. We know what will cause it, and we have the technology to fight the disease. While some diseases have easily detectable symptoms, more often than not, cervical cancer can go undetected without any warning signs until it is in its later stages. That’s why it’s imperative for women to become more educated about the disease and take preventative measures. CHRISTUS St. Catherine Hospital and the Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommend the following preventive screening tests:
- Regular Well Woman Examinations. The best way to detect cervical cancer is by having regular “Well Woman” examinations. A well woman exam entails a routine pelvic examination, Pap testing and breast examination. The Pap test or Pap smear looks for precancerous cell changes on the cervix that may become cervical cancer if they are not treated appropriately.
- The Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Test. The HPV test looks for the virus that can cause these cell changes. Talk with your doctor, nurse, or other health care professional about whether the HPV test is right for you.
- HPV Vaccine. Two HPV vaccines are available to protect females against the types of HPV that cause most cervical, vaginal, and vulvar cancers. Both vaccines are recommended for 11- and 12-year-old girls, and for females 13 through 26 years of age who did not get any or all of the shots when they were younger. These vaccines also can be given to girls as young as 9 years of age.
Getting regular exams and preventive screening tests are among the most important things a woman can do for herself. I encourage women to take a moment – or a pulse check – to pay attention to their body. A woman’s life is too precious to ignore – they are mothers, teachers, sisters, friends and neighbors. Daily exercise, a balanced diet and just simple follow-up visits to their physicians are key to longer and healthier lifestyles. To schedule an appointment with a CHRISTUS St. Catherine Hospital physician, or to learn more about the hospital’s women’s services, visit christusstcatherine.org or call 281-599-5700.
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