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Cervical cancer screening

Cervical cancer screening

Cervical cancer is a highly preventable cancer with regular screening tests starting at age 21 and appropriate follow-up care. When found early and treated, cervical cancer, which is almost always caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV), can be cured. Vaccines are now available to protect against most types of HPV that cause cervical cancer. Many have been exposed to HPV — a very common, sexually transmitted virus — but few will get cervical cancer from it, especially with appropriate screening.

Pap smear and HPV test
Pap smears involve scraping cells from the opening of the cervix, which are examined under a microscope. A pathologist looks for changes on the cervix that might become cervical cancer if not screened and treated appropriately. The HPV test looks for the virus that is the cause of almost all cervical cancers. It is recommended to start regular Pap smears at the age of 21, which can be stopped at the age of 65 unless otherwise indicated. If your Pap test results are normal, your doctor may say you can wait three years until your next Pap smear. Women age 30 and older may choose to have an HPV test along with the Pap smear. If both your HPV test and Pap smear are negative, your doctor may offer the option of waiting five years before your next screening. However, this does not mean you do not need an annual well woman examination. Annual pelvic exams are still important to continue.

HPV Vaccine (Gardasil 9)
The Gardasil vaccine helps protect girls and women ages nine to 26 years old against cervical, vaginal, vulvar and anal cancer. Furthermore, it protects patients from genital warts if caused by the nine types of HPV covered by the Gardasil 9. It can also protect boys and men in the same age group against anal cancer and genital warts. Gardasil 9 does not prevent all types of cervical cancer, especially if you were exposed to HPV prior to the vaccine. Therefore, it is important to continue with your physician’s recommendation on Pap smears.

About Chris Van Orsdoll, DO
Dr. Chris Van Orsdoll is an obstetrician-gynecologist who provides care at Methodist Women’s Services at 736 North Elm Street in Henderson. To schedule your Pap smear and/or a well woman examination, please contact Methodist Women’s Services at 270-827-4000.