PREVENTING CERVICAL CANCER
Lake Wales, FL – January is National Cervical Cancer Awareness month, and Lake Wales Medical Center wants to ensure women are aware of measures that can reduce the prevalence of the disease.
“Today, we know cervical cancer can be prevented with proper screening to find pre-cancers before they develop into invasive cancer,” said Dr. Ilan Bornstein, a gynecologist at Lake Wales Medical Center. “If a pre-cancer is found, it can be treated, stopping cervical cancer before it really starts.”
One factor in cervical cancer is the prevalence of the human papilloma virus (HPV). An estimated 80 percent of sexually active women will become infected with the virus at some point, but of the more than 100 strains of HPV identified, only a few high-risk strains are connected to cervical cancer. The vast majority of HPV infections resolve without any treatment or intervention.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends young women and men receive HPV vaccination as early as age 9, to provide the best protection long before the start of sexual activity. Catch-up vaccines are recommended for males through age 21 and for females through 26 years of age. In females, vaccination helps protect against two types of HPV that cause 70 percent of cervical cancer cases.
“The American Cancer Society estimates that more than 4,000 women die of the disease every year in the U.S., and approximately 265,000 worldwide,” Bornstein said. “It also is estimated that 50 percent of the women have never been screened, and an additional ten percent have not been screened with the past five years.”
Changes in the guidelines about screening frequency have created confusion. What used to be a clear direction – “get a yearly Pap test” – has become less clear. Recommended time between screenings is now longer, and two separate tests are available.
While not all physicians agree on the new guidelines, following are good rules from the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Cancer Society to protect yourself against cervical cancer.
- All women should begin having Pap tests at age 21.
- Women between the ages of 21 and 29 should have a Pap test at least every three years. HPV testing should be done only if needed after an abnormal Pap test.
- Women between the ages of 30 and 65 should have both a Pap test and an HPV test at least every five years.
- Women over 65 who have had regular screenings with normal results should not be screened for cervical cancer.
- Women who are at increased risk for cervical cancer may need to increase the frequency of these screenings.
In short, the American Cancer Society no longer recommends getting a Pap test every year, because it generally takes longer than that (10-20 years) for cervical cancer to develop. Annual well-woman visits are recommended even if cervical cancer screening is not performed at each visit. As the debate continues, there is also the option to have a separate test for HPV alone. Discuss with your doctor the appropriate actions based on your age, lifestyle and risk factors.
Dr. Bornstein, whose office is located at 1255 SR 60 E., Suite 400, in Lake Wales, is taking new patients. To schedule an appointment, call 863-455-1620, or visit www.LakeWalesMedicalGroup.com to learn more.