Preventing Cervical Cancer: April 24, 2017
Each year, studies show 12,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer. It was once the number one cancer killer of women, but a screening has significantly changed that.
Dr. Fadi Abu Shahin, a gynecologic oncologist on the medical staff of Lee Health, says cervical cancer is now preventable through a pap smear screening. “Cervical cancer is cancer of the cervix. The cervix is the lowest part of the uterus. The part that protrudes into the vaginal area. Pap smears are one of the best screening tests for any cancer because it’s very effective, very sensitive in identifying not only cancer but also it allows us to identify precancerous changes in the cervical cells, 5 to 15 years before the cancer develops.”
Not only are doctors able to catch the disease early, they are now able to prevent the disease by giving patients an HPV vaccine. “What’s unique about cervical cancer is we know the cause of the cancer. 99 percent of cervical cancers are caused by a virus called HPV virus,” said Dr. Shahin.
Like other viruses, there are hundreds of different types of the HPV virus, with only a few that cause cancer. The HPV vaccine covers nine different types of HPV. “The ideal time is before you start sexual activity before they’re exposed to HPV. But still it’s ok to give it to women who are already sexually active, even women who are already diagnosed with HPV infection,” said Dr. Shahin.
Doctors recommend women get the vaccine between the ages of 9 and 26.