January is Cervical Health Awareness Month. Admix Compounding Pharmacy wants you to know that there is a lot you can do to prevent cervical cancer. About 79 million Americans currently have HPV (human papillomavirus), the most common sexually transmitted disease. Each year, about 12,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer, and about one-third of those will die as a result of the cancer. HPV is a major cause of cervical cancer.
The good news?
• HPV can be prevented by the HPV vaccine.
• Cervical cancer can often be prevented with regular screening tests (called Pap tests) and follow-up care.
HPV vaccines can help prevent infection from both high risk HPV types that can lead to cervical cancer and low risk types that cause genital warts. There are currently two HPV vaccines available.
• Gardasil® is a vaccine available for both men and women. Gardasil® is effective at preventing infection associated with HPV types 6 & 11 (types associated with 90% of all genital warts) and type 16 & 18 (types associated with 70% of all cervical cancers, and many vulvar and vaginal cancers).
• Cervarix® is a vaccine just for women. This vaccine is effective at preventing infection associated with HPV 16 & 18 (associated with 70% of all cervical cancers).
The Pap Test
The Pap test finds changes in the cells of the cervix (the mouth of the womb). When a female gets Pap test, she is being screened for to make sure that there are no abnormal or precancerous changes in the cells on her cervix. Most of the time, the cell changes and abnormalities are due to HPV. If abnormalities were found, it does not mean its cervical cancer. It just means the healthcare provider will want to closely monitor the cervix often, and possibly do treatment, to prevent further cell changes that could become cancerous over time if left unchecked.
The HPV Test
HPV tests can find any of the high-risk types of HPV that are most commonly found in cervical cancer. The presence of any of these HPV types in a woman for many years can lead to cell changes that may need to be treated so that cervical cancer does not occur.
In women 30 and over, screening using both an HPV test and a Pap test is more likely to find abnormal cervical cell changes than either test alone. If both tests are negative (normal), a woman may safely have her next Pap and HPV test in three years depending on their past Pap test findings and other risk factors.
In women under age 30, consensus guidelines do not currently recommend this. HPV is very common in women under the age of 30 but cervical cancer is very rare in this age group. Most women under 30 with HPV will get rid of the virus without treatment.
In honor of National Cervical Health Awareness Month. Admix Compounding Pharmacy encourages:
• Women to start getting regular Pap tests at age 21
• Women to start getting HPV test after age 30 or recommended by physicians
• Women to get the HPV vaccine before age 27
• Parents to make sure their pre-teens get the HPV vaccine at age 11 or 12
• Men to get HPV vaccine if you are under age 22
Thanks to the health care reform law, you and your family members may be able to get these services at no cost to you. Check with your insurance company.
Taking small steps can help keep you safe and healthy!