If you could do something to help save your own life, and do it every year, would you do it? Getting an annual pelvic exam and a Pap smear could be the very thing to help you stay healthy as a young woman, middle-aged woman, and an elderly woman and beyond.
"Many women do not realize the importance of annual Pap smears and HPV testing. Furthermore, many women are confused about whether they should get the HPV vaccine," Health and Wellness expert, Dr. Maiysha Clairborne said.
"Though most doctors are explaining the importance of how these simple measures can save your life, many patients still assume it is a routine procedure that they can go without. Also, young women may not know what age they should begin to worry about these things, and most never ask."
Approximately 12,000 American women are diagnosed, and numbers higher than 4,000 die as a result of cervical cancer. It’s amazing to think that screening for cellular abnormalities by having regular Pap smears could prevent so many of these cases if only women were diligent and consistent about having them done. They should be done annually.
In addition, vaccines can help guard against HPV and other related difficulties such as warts and cervical cancer, and should be further explored as an option for both girls and boys from a young age (discuss with your child’s pediatrician).
Signs and Symptoms of Cervical Cancer include abnormal bleeding, such as:
• Bleeding between regular menstrual periods
• Bleeding after sexual intercourse
• Bleeding after douching
• Bleeding after a pelvic exam
Other symptoms include:
• Pelvic pain not related to your menstrual cycle
• Heavy or unusual discharge that may be watery, thick, and possibly have a foul odor
• Increased pain or frequency with urination
• Painful intercourse
"It is extremely important for women over the age of 21 to get regular Pap smears. Undetected HPV can lead to cancer over the years, and missing such a preventable diagnosis is a true tragedy especially with the tools and screening available," Clairborne said.
There are two vaccines (Cervarix and Gardasil) that can protect women against most cervical cancers. Cervical cancer can also be prevented with routine cervical cancer screenings and follow-up of abnormal results.
The Pap test can find abnormal cells on the cervix so that they can be removed before cancer develops. An HPV DNA test, which can find HPV on a woman's cervix, may also be used with a Pap test in certain cases.
Even women who got the vaccine when they were younger need regular cervical cancer screening because the vaccine protects against most, but not all, cervical cancers.
For more information on cervical cancer prevention, early detection and where to obtain a Pap smear within your local area please visit the National Cervical Cancer Coalition at http://www.nccc-online.org/
Or read more about Dr. Maiysha Clairborne's advice at http://www.mbswellness.org/
Sexually Transmitted Diseases. Genital HPV Infection-Fact Sheet
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved from the internet on February 13, 2012.
Dr. MaiyshaClairborne Urges Women to Take Steps Towards HPV Prevention
PR-USA.net. Retrieved from the internet on February 13, 2012.
Aimee Boyle is a regular contributor to EmpowHER
Reviewed February 22, 2012
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jessica Obert
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