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Cervical Cancer Awareness: Reduce Your Risk with Screenings

Nov 14, 2022

Cervical Cancer Awareness: Reduce Your Risk with Screenings
About 400 Idaho females alive on July 1, 2019 had been diagnosed with invasive cervical cancer within the 10 years prior. Pap and HPV tests can help find cervical cancer early or prevent it by identifying precancers that can be treated.

According to the American Cancer Society, The most common type of cervical cancer begins with precancerous changes. The best way to prevent it is to find and treat precancers before they develop into invasive cancer, and the second best way is to prevent precancers in the first place.

Idaho Ranks #50 out of #52 (out of 52 when including DC and Puerto Rico)  in cervical cancer screening. Let's change that! 

The caring and knowledgeable gynecology team at Catalyst Medical Group offer cervical cancer screenings.

Eligibility for HPV vaccines

The human papillomavirus vaccine prevents infection by certain types of the human papillomavirus. Depending on which vaccine you receive, the HPV vaccine protects against two, four, or nine types of HPV — but all HPV vaccines protect against types 16 and 18, which are the types that cause the greatest risk of cervical cancer.

You should get an HPV vaccine if:

  • You are between the ages of 9 and 12
  • You are between the ages 13 and 26 and have not been vaccinated yet

The American Cancer Society does not recommend the vaccine for people over age 26. Vaccinating young adults and older teenagers will not prevent as many cancers as vaccinating younger children.

Screening tests for cervical cancer

Finding cervical cancer in its earliest stages is the key to successful treatment. 

Catalyst Medical Group provides two screening tests that help prevent or find cervical cancer early:

The Pap test

The Pap test, also called a Pap smear, looks for cell changes on the cervix that could become cervical cancer, if left untreated. Pap tests detect precancers when the condition is easiest to treat.

HPV test

HPV tests detect the human papillomavirus, which causes cell changes. Positive HPV test results indicate you have a type of high-risk HPV that is known to cause cervical cancer. It is a warning sign that you could have cervical cancer in the future. 

Your doctor may suggest a colposcopy if you have an HPV test with an abnormal Pap test.  During a colposcopy, your doctor uses a colposcope (special microscope) to look at the cervix, vulva, and vagina to see if there are abnormal cells or blood vessels that need further treatment. 

Tips to prevent cervical cancer

You can help reduce your risk of cervical cancer by not smoking, limiting your number of sexual partners, and using condoms during sex. It’s important to understand that even though condom use is associated with lower rates of cervical cancer, the effect of condoms in preventing HPV infection is unknown. Between 2015-2019, Idaho had 81 deaths from cervical cancer. 

Get cervical cancer screenings

When and how often you should get screened for cervical cancer depends on your medical history, age, and the results of your last Pap test and HPV test. Catalyst Medical Group recommends the following guidelines:

  • 21-24 years old: get a Pap test every three years
  • 25-65 years old: get an HPV and Pap test every five years
  • Over 65: you may not need HPV or Pap tests anymore

Even though you don’t need the Pap and HPV test, you still need a yearly pelvic exam to look for ovarian cancer. Your doctor will recommend more frequent testing if you’ve had issues with your cervix before or have a weakened immune system.

Call Catalyst Medical Group in Lewiston, Idaho to schedule your appointment.