What is Cervical Cancer?

What is Cervical Cancer?

Today, doctors recommend that women get regular (at least annual) Pap smear tests done. There is a good reason. Cervical cancer is cancer that develops in tissues of the cervix. The cervix is the organ that connects the uterus and the vagina. Cancer of the cervix is usually very slow in growing, and sometimes there are virtually no symptoms until the disease is well developed.

A Pap smear test is a method of early detection of a potential problem. With early diagnosis and early intervention, the disease is mostly curable. Left undetected and untreated, cervical cancer is fatal.

Pap smears are not pleasant, but they aren’t painful, either. Cells are scraped from the cervix and examined under a microscope. Think about it – an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure any day of the week!

There is some really good news on the cervical cancer front! A vaccine has been developed that actually PREVENTS HPV (human papillomaviruses) infection. HPV is the main risk factor for cervical cancer. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently approved this vaccine for use in girls and women from the age of 9 to the age of 26. The vaccine is given through a series of three shots over a six-month period.

Studies have shown that the vaccine is almost 100% effective in preventing diseases caused by the four HPV types covered by the vaccine, including pre-cancers of the cervix, vulva and vagina, and genital warts.

The vaccine, however, does not protect against all types of HPV, and it will not prevent all cases of cervical cancer or genital warts. It’s been found that about 30% of cervical cancers are not prevented by the vaccine, so it is important for women to continue getting screened by having regular Pap tests even after they have had the vaccine.

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