In recognition of Cervical Health Awareness Month, Presence St. Mary’s Hospital (PSMH) is encouraging women to begin the New Year by making an appointment for a Pap test. A crucial part of every woman’s healthcare regimen, regular Pap testing is the best method to protect against invasive cervical cancer – one of the most preventable cancers if it is detected early.
Cervical cancer was once one of the most common causes of cancer death for American women. But over the last 30 years, the cervical cancer death rate has gone down by more than 50%, according to the American Cancer Society. The main reason for this change was the increased use of screening tests. Screening can find changes in the cervix before cancer develops. It can also find cervical cancer early, in its most curable stage. The Pap test is considered to be the single most effective cancer screen in medicine.
“Cervical cancer is the second most common type of cancer for women, but because it develops over time, it is one of the most preventable types of cancer,” explains Kenneth Bray, M.D., PSMH, board certified in obstetrics and gynecology. “If caught early, the five-year survival rate is almost 100 percent. A Pap test is the best way to determine if cell changes have taken place that may indicate precancerous or cancerous development early enough to prevent or to treat the disease.”
Although half of the women who are diagnosed with cancer of the cervix are between the ages of 35 and 55, the disease can occur in younger women. Annual Pap tests are recommended for women ages 21 to 30. After age 30, women who test negative three years in a row can be screened every two to three years. Cervical cancer screening should continue until at least age 70.
Human papillomavirus (HPV) is found in about 99 percent of cervical cancers. While there are over 100 different types of HPV, more than 70 percent of cervical cancer cases can be attributed to two types of the virus, HPV-16 and HPV-18. By age 50, approximately 80 percent of women have some type of HPV, the majority of which does not develop into cervical cancer. In June 2006, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the first vaccine that was developed to prevent cervical cancer and is effective against HPV strains 16 and 18. Today, the vaccine is recommended for girls at age 11 or 12.
To learn more, visit Presence St. Mary's Hospital or contact Dr. Bray at 815.937.8741. Dr. Bray’s office is located at 555 W. Court Street, Suite 214, Kankakee, Illinois.