CHATTANOOGA – Every year, about 12,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer and 4,000 women die from this disease in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. …
CHATTANOOGA – Every year, about 12,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer and 4,000 women die from this disease in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Cervical cancer starts in the cells lining the cervix, or the lower part of the uterus. The normal cells of the cervix can gradually develop pre-cancerous changes that can turn into cancer.
“Cervical cancer tends to occur in midlife. Most cases are found in women younger than 50,” said Mary McKenzie, D.O., with CHI Memorial Integrative Medicine Associates. “But there is still a risk of developing cervical cancer as women age. More than 15 percent cervical cancer cases are found in women over 65.”
Cervical cancer can be prevented with screenings and a vaccine. Two screening tests are available that can help prevent cervical cancer, or find it early.
“The Pap smear, or Pap test, looks for pre-cancer cells that could become cervical cancer if left untreated. The HPV test looks for the human papillomavirus (HPV) that causes the cells to change,” explains Dr. McKenzie.
“It’s very important for women to be tested because cervical cancer is very treatable when found early.” The CDC recommends all women between the ages of 21 and 65 get a Pap smear every 3 to 5 years depending on risk factors.
These screenings are also important because pre-cancers and early-stage cervical cancer usually have no symptoms. “Symptoms often do not begin until the cancer becomes invasive and grows into nearby tissue,” says Dr. McKenzie.
The HPV vaccine protects against the cancers caused by HPV, a common virus passed from one person to another through direct skin-to-skin contact during sexual activity.
Dr. McKenzie said, “Exposure can happen with adolescent experimentation that involves genital contact with someone who has HPV. Intercourse is not necessary to contract the virus.” Both females and males are affected by HPV and there is no cure.
n 14 million people are newly inf percent of those cases occur in 15 to 24 year olds.
n 33 women are diagnosed with HPV-related cervical cancer in the United States each day.
n 40 new cases of genital warts are diagnosed in the United States every day.
“Many people with HPV will never experience any symptoms and the virus will go away on its own,” said Dr. McKenzie. “But some types of HPV can cause cervical cancer in women and other less common cancers. The HPV vaccine targets HPV related diseases and cancers including genital warts, and anal, cervical, vulvar and vaginal cancers.”
The CDC recommends boys and girls receive the HPV vaccine at age 11 or 12 before they are exposed to the virus.
“This vaccine is not required and parents must choose for their child to get it,” explains Dr. McKenzie. “It’s important to discuss any concerns about this vaccine with your doctor.”
The vaccine is a series of three shots given over six months. The CDC recommends receiving the full HPV vaccine series.
“If you did not get the vaccine as a pre-teen, it may not be too late,” said Dr. McKenzie. “Women and men up to age 26 can still receive the vaccine series. It’s the best way to protect yourself or your child against the HPV virus which can lead to cervical cancer.”
Most health insurance plans cover the cost of this vaccine, but you should check your individual policy to be sure.
CHI Memorial Integrative Medicine Associates is located at 320 East Main Street, Suite 300, Chattanooga, Tennessee 37408. For questions, or to schedule an appointment, call (423) 643-2246.
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