The numbers of cervical cancer deaths have dropped dramatically – almost 70 percent- since 1955, but it is still a concern for women today. According to Dr. Margarett Ellison from North Fulton Women’s Oncology, “Nearly all cervical cancers are caused by infection with particular strains of the human papillomavirus.” This sexually transmitted virus now has an FDA-approved vaccine, which is recommenced for both males and females before the onset of sexual activity Even those who are already sexually active may still receive some benefit from the HPV vaccine.
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Regular Pap smears and HPV tests can detect and analyze precancerous cells. Dr. Giuseppe Del Priore, the national director of gynecologic oncology at Cancer Treatment Centers of America at Southeastern Regional Medical Center, recommends, “Pap smears and HPV tests for women between 21 and 65 should be scheduled once every one to three years.”
If your doctor detects and removes precancerous cells, you may encounter some difficulty with conception afterward, says Dr. Mark Perloe from Georgia Reproductive Specialists. “There is a significant risk of a weakened cervix,” he says. “Your physician should monitor cervical length, and if it appears to be shortened, a cervical cerclage stitch may be placed to reduce the risk of early delivery.”
Ask your doctor about these tests and procedures that can help maintain your cervical and overall health.
Giuseppe Del Priore, MD, MPH, Cancer Treatment Centers of America
Margarett C. Ellison, MD, MHA, FACS, FACOG, North Fulton Women’s Oncology
Mark Perloe, MD, Georgia Reproductive Specialists