3 Steps to Protect Against Cervical Cancer

Cervical cancer is one of the few mostly preventable cancers. The rate of death from this disease has dropped by more than half in the past few decades. A big part of this cancer prevention is early detection, which requires an expert office with the right technology. At McTammany Health Services, we want to help you spot cervical cancer before it grows. To help you out, here are three steps you can take to protect yourself from cervical cancer.

Step #1: Get A Pap test

One of the most common screening methods for cervical cancer is to have a routine Pap test. This should be completed in conjunction with your in-office pelvic exam. The test collects a sample of cervical cells, then Dr. McTammany reviews it for abnormal or pre-cancerous changes in the cells of your cervix. It’s an effective way to detect cervical cancer in the early stages before it spreads to other parts of the body.

When is the best time to get a Pap test? The American Cancer Society recommends:

  • The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends that starting at age 21, women should get a Pap test every 3 years until age 65.
  • Women 30 to 65 years old are recommended to have a Pap test every 5 years if co-testing with HPV, or every 3 years with just a Pap test.
  • Women over 65 that have not had any serious pre-cancers in the last 30 years or have been regularly screened in the previous 10 years may not need to be screened. This depends on your doctor’s recommendation.

Pap results may be “Normal”, “Unclear”, or “Abnormal.” If you have an abnormal Pap test, Dr. McTammany will do more tests to get a closer look at your cervix and remove more tissue from your cervix for a biopsy. Identifying precancerous cells will allow us to prevent them from becoming cancerous.

There are several ways Dr. McTammany can remove precancerous cells. He can physically remove the tissue with a cone biopsy or destroy it with laser treatment or cryosurgery, also called “freezing.” These treatments are the most common and considered the most effective.

If your Pap test shows cancerous cells, Dr. McTammany will do more tests to determine what stage the cancer is in. Surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy are all treatment options, and the success rate will depend on how early we detect cancer.

It’s important to get a Pap test regularly. If you’ve had irregular Pap tests, you may need a Pap test annually or more frequently. 

3 Steps to Protect Against Cervical Cancer

Step #2: Get Vaccinated Against HPV

Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) is a non-enveloped DNA virus. Over 100 kinds of HPV have been discovered, but two of them (types 16 and 18) contribute the highest towards cervical cancer development. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a majority of cervical cancer cases are due to HPV.  By age 50, at least four out of every five women will have had an HPV infection. The good news is that 90% of these strains are preventable through vaccination!

The vaccine is given in three doses over about 9 months. For children starting any HPV series when they are younger than 15 years old, they need only two doses instead of three. Although the vaccine is more commonly given before age 26, it has been approved for use up to age 45. The ideal time to get the HPV vaccine is before you’re sexually active, but this is not necessary to receive a vaccine.

Of course, along with an HPV vaccine, this should work in conjunction with an HPV test. The HPV test is used alongside the Pap test as a way to strengthen cancer detection. Since cervical cancer is heavily tied to HPV, it has many of the same risk factors. The more sexual partners you’ve had and the earlier you started having sex, the more likely you are to get HPV and cervical cancer. 

Cervical cancer often strikes at a sexually-active period of a woman’s life, and HPV is the most common sexually transmitted disease in the United States. With the availability of two HPV vaccines, vaccination is an ideal strategy for preventing this kind of cancer.

Step #3: Schedule your annual well-woman exam

An easy way to be screened for cervical cancer is to determine your needs by talking with our experts at McTammany Health Services during your annual well-woman exam. Based on your age and health needs, vaccinations may not be needed every year to ensure your overall health. It’s important to talk with your provider about when you are due for them and to address any concerns you have. Conversations like these help with early detection and prevent problems ahead of time. These appointments also provide an opportunity to ask questions or inform your doctor of pain, discomfort, or other issues you want to discuss. 

3 Steps to Protect Against Cervical Cancer

Trust McTammany Health Services

At McTammany Health Services, our expert team has helped hundreds of women who deal with issues every day, including cancer detection. Checking in on your body before any severe problems can manifest is one of the best things you can do for yourself, and we want to use our expertise to help. You can feel confident that you’ll receive the best care for your unique needs. Schedule an appointment with Dr. McTammany at our convenient Melbourne office and start your journey to your best self.