Cervical cancer screening saves lives

  • Published
  • 59th Medical Wing Public Affairs

Cancer can start at any place in the body. Cervical cancer starts in the cervix. It starts when cells in the cervix grow out of control and crowd out normal cells. This makes it hard for the body to work the way it should.

The American Cancer Society estimated 14,480 new cervical cancer cases and approximately 4,290 deaths from this disease during 2021.

January is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month and the 59th Medical Wing wants women to know that cervical cancer can often be found early, and sometimes even prevented, by having regular screening tests. If detected early, cervical cancer is one of the most successfully treatable cancers.

However, cervical cancer is still the fourth-leading cause of cancer death in women worldwide. Human papillomavirus, or HPV, is the main cause of cervical cancer and is most commonly passed from one person to another during sexual intercourse. 

Risk factors associated with cervical cancer include smoking; long-term use of birth control pills multiple sex partners, a family history of cervical cancer and other factors. HPV is often asymptomatic, therefore one can have it and not be aware of its presence. 

The two important screening tests for detection of and early intervention for cervical cancer are the Pap smear and HPV tests.  The Pap test looks for cell changes on the cervix that may become cervical cancer if not treated appropriately. The HPV test detects the HPV which causes cellular changes.

HPV is a common virus that can cause six types of cancer. While there is no treatment for HPV, there is a vaccine that can prevent it.

Parents of children between ages 9 and 12 should talk to their doctor about the HPV vaccine. Vaccinating your child at the recommended ages can help keep them healthy well into adulthood and is the best way to prevent HPV cancers later in life.

It is important to consult with your doctor or health care provider about getting essential vaccines during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Women ages 21-29 should receive the Pap screening exam every three years unless more frequent screening is recommended. Women ages 30-65 should receive the Pap screening and the HPV test every five years unless more frequent screening is recommended.

These screening exams can be scheduled by calling 210-916-9900. For more information, visit the American Cancer Society’s website at https://www.cancer.org/cancer/cervical-cancer.html