Screening and Prevention of Cervical Cancer

These days, young women become aware of cervical cancer quite early in their lives. This is in part because of how many preventive measures exist in modern medicine, specifically through vaccination. Today, the Memphis Obstetrics & Gynecological Association will explain more about the screening and prevention of cervical cancer.

What is Cervical Cancer?

Cervical cancer is a type of cancer that develops within the cells of the cervix, which is located in the lower part of the uterus (womb) that connects to the vagina.

There are a number of reasons why early detection is absolutely key to treating this condition:

  • Early detection through routine screening allows for the identification and treatment of precancerous changes before they develop into invasive cancer, which is significantly harder to treat.
  • Treatment options for early-stage cervical cancer are thankfully highly effective, with high survival and cure rates and fewer complications compared to those in advanced stages.

The following are some causes and risk factors you should be aware of:

  • Human Papillomavirus (HPV): Being infected with certain types of HPV, a sexually transmitted virus, is the primary cause of cervical cancer.
  • Weakened Immune System: Conditions that weaken the immune system, such as HIV/AIDS or other autoimmune diseases, can increase your likelihood of infection.
  • Smoking: This habit actually increases the risk of cervical cancer.
  • Family History: As with other cancers, it’s very important for your providers to be aware of the family history of this condition, as it often correlates directly with future cases.

Screening and Prevention of Cervical Cancer

Screening for Cervical Cancer

There are a few main ways our providers screen for cervical cancer:

Pap Smear (aka Pap Test):

  • A Pap smear is a common yearly screening test that examines cells collected from the cervix by your OBGYN, which can be used for detecting precancerous changes or early signs of cervical cancer.
  • Who: We recommend that women should start regular Pap smears at age 21. How frequently you get them can relate to individual risk factors.
  • How Often: Many guidelines recommend screening every three years for women aged 21-29. For women aged 30-65, screening can be done with a Pap smear alone every three years or with HPV testing every five years.

HPV Test:

    • HPV testing is beneficial in that it checks for the presence of high-risk HPV types that can cause cervical cancer.
  • Who: HPV testing is usually conducted along with a Pap smear for women aged 30 and older.
  • How Often: If both types of tests are negative, screening intervals might be extended to every five years for most women aged 30-65.

It should be noted that after a hysterectomy (which is the removal of the uterus and cervix), non-cancerous conditions may not necessitate these manners of screening, depending on their individual medical history.

Prevention of Cervical Cancer

As we said, there are many routes for the prevention of cervical cancer in our patients at different stages of life. 

  • HPV Vaccinations:
  • HPV vaccines are highly effective in preventing infection for those with high-risk HPV types that cause cervical cancer.
  • This can start at age 11 or 12 for girls and boys or as early as 9.
  • If not previously vaccinated, it can happen before age 26. Some adults might qualify after consulting with their provider.
  • There are two main vaccine types: Gardasil 9, which protects against nine types of HPV, and Cervarix, which protects against the two most common types (16 and 18).
  • Safe Sex: Using condoms consistently and correctly can help to reduce the risk of HPV and other sexually transmitted diseases. 
  • Quit Smoking: If you are an active smoker, it’s important to seek help to stop for a number of reasons, in this case, how it directly correlates to cervical cancer for many.
  • Limiting Sexual Partners: Having fewer sexual partners and choosing partners who have had fewer previous partners can reduce the risk of contracting the disease.
  • Regular Check-Ups: It’s important to attend your yearly exams as regularly as you can to have a comprehensive screening history. If your provider has determined you are high risk, this becomes especially integral to your health.
  • Education and Awareness: Promoting awareness about HPV and cervical cancer prevention is a hugely important tool. When people become aware of the risks, they are more inclined to be screened. This can be through reading materials or from their primary care physician, but it also can occur by friends and family communicating with one another about their wellness.

Screening and Prevention of Cervical Cancer

A Women’s Health Movement

At the Memphis Obstetrics & Gynecological Association, we take great pride in treating our patients with excellence, and one aspect of that is ensuring they are thoroughly educated on cervical cancer and HPV. There have been so many strides made in the last few decades to help women curb this dangerous condition and many more resources for those who find themselves battling it. For further questions or to schedule your first appointment, please contact your nearest office in Bartlett, East Memphis, Germantown, or DeSoto.