Cervical Cancer Easily Preventable With Routine Checkups, Vaccinations – Archyde

from dr Sharlene Health, Kaiser Permanente

Cervical cancer was once the leading cause of death for women with cancer in the United States. But because of the check-ups and the HPV vaccination, this is no longer the case.

Unfortunately, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, there has been a decline in cervical cancer early detection rates. With January being Cervical Cancer Awareness Month, it’s a good time to remind women of the importance of getting their routine checkups done.

Cervical cancer occurs when abnormal cells grow out of control on the cervix in the lower part of the uterus. It is caused by a virus called human papillomavirus, or HPV. You can get HPV by having sexual contact with someone who has the virus.

HIV patients, those with compromised immune systems, and smokers may be at higher risk of cervical cancer, as are those with multiple intimate partners due to higher potential exposure.

We don’t diagnose a lot of cervical cancer. I’ve only seen about 10 cases in my career as an OB/GYN that I attribute to screening and the HPV vaccine.

Cervical cancer is largely preventable because it grows so slowly. The current recommendation is to be screened for HPV every three years. Even with screenings performed every three years, we are still able to detect abnormal cell growth early on. And even if your screening shows you have abnormal cells, that doesn’t mean you have cervical cancer. It likely means you have something that is precancerous and can be treated.

The other way to prevent cervical cancer is vaccination.

20 years ago there was no vaccine to prevent cervical cancer. But in 2006, the HPV vaccine was approved.

The vaccine is recommended for everyone aged 9 to 45, including men and boys. Previously, it was given to people under the age of 26. Then the recommendations expanded as research showed the vaccine was beneficial for older adults. And even if you previously had precancerous lesions, the vaccine prevents the disease from progressing.

If you have unusual bleeding or pelvic pain, these may be symptoms that you need to get checked out. Cervical cancer is largely asymptomatic, which is why screening is so important. Contact your doctor if you think your cervical cancer screening is overdue. You can also discuss HPV vaccination if you are eligible.

In addition to being an obstetrician and gynecologist, I am also a leader in health education, which is why I am passionate about educating people about their health. I believe in empowering women to make the right choices for themselves to improve healthcare outcomes. A lot of women don’t know what’s happening to their bodies and I want them to have all the information so they can make informed decisions.

Sharlene Sanidad, MD, is an obstetrician-gynecologist at Kaiser Permanente in Vallejo. Kaiser Permanente Napa Solano is a partner of Solano Public Health.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.