About AOA

The joys of motherhood are never fully experienced until all the children are in bed.
- Unknown

 

Cervical Cancer Prevention

Cancer is a disease where cells in the body grow out of control and is always named for the part of the body where the disease originates, even if the cancer moves into other parts of the body later. Cervical cancer starts in the cervix, which connects the vagina to the uterus.

Cervical Cancer

Two factors mean that cervical cancer is highly preventable in the U.S.: screening tests and the HPV vaccine. The screening tests for cervical cancer include a Pap test or smear and the HPV test. A Pap test is recommended for all women, and most women in the U.S. will get a Pap test with their annual checkup.

Pap Tests

During the Pap test, your AOA doctor will use a plastic or metal instrument, called a speculum, to widen your vagina. This helps the doctor examine the vagina and the cervix, and collect a few cells and mucus from the cervix and the area around it. The cells are then placed on a slide or in a bottle of liquid and sent to a laboratory. The laboratory checks to be sure that the cells are normal. (A Pap test does not screen for ovarian, uterine, vaginal, or vulvar cancers. So even if you have a Pap test regularly, if you notice any signs or symptoms that are unusual for you, be sure to tell your AOA doctor to find out why you're having them.)

When you have a Pap test, your doctor will also perform a pelvic exam, checking your uterus, ovaries, and other organs to make sure there are no problems. There are times when your doctor may perform a pelvic exam without giving you a Pap test. Ask your AOA physician which tests you are having, if you are unsure.

In addition to the Pap test—the main test for cervical cancer—an HPV (human papillomavirus) test may also be used to screen women at the discretion of your AOA provider. HPV is a sexually transmitted disease and the cause of cervical cancer. There are many types of HPV. Some cause warts that you can see or feel, but others have no symptoms. Most people do not know they have an HPV infection. An HPV test can be done at the same time as a Pap test; the results can help doctors decide if further tests or treatments are needed.

HPV Vaccines

HPV vaccines are given as three shots to protect against HPV infection and HPV-related diseases. Two vaccines (Cervarix and Gardasil) have been shown to protect against most cervical cancers in women.

HPV vaccines offer the greatest health benefits to individuals who receive all three doses before having any type of sexual activity. That’s why HPV vaccination is recommended for preteen girls and boys at age 11 or 12 years; for all teen girls and women through age 26, who did not get all three doses of the vaccine when they were younger.

Ways to Lower Your Risk for Cervical Cancer

  • Don’t Smoke.
  • Use condoms during sex.
  • Limit your number of sexual partners.

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