Women Can Take Steps to Prevent Cervical Cancer

Regular Pap tests, HPV vaccine go a long way in warding off the disease, experts say

WEDNESDAY, Jan. 25 (HealthDay News) -- Women need to get recommended Pap tests, while girls and young women should be vaccinated against human papillomavirus (HPV) to protect them from cervical cancer, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists advises during Cervical Health Awareness Month.

Cervical cancer kills more than 4,000 women in the United States each year. Many of them could have been saved by routine Pap tests, which look for abnormal cells in the cervix that can turn into cancer. When caught early, those abnormal cells are highly treatable, according to the college.

More than 12,000 new cases of cervical cancer will be diagnosed in the United States this year, according to the American Cancer Society.

The good news is that the rate of cervical cancer in the United States has fallen more than 50 percent in the past three decades due to the widespread use of the Pap test, the college says.

Cervical cancer is caused by certain strains of HPV, a common sexually transmitted disease. HPV can also cause genital and anal warts and cancer of the mouth, head and neck, penis and anus.

Women can help protect themselves against cervical cancer by being monogamous, practicing safe sex and getting periodic Pap tests. In addition, girls and young women aged 9 to 26 should receive the HPV vaccine, the college recommends.

A young women should get her first Pap test when she turns 21 and continue having a Pap test every two years until age 30. Women age 30 and beyond who have three consecutive negative Pap test results can be screened once every three years, the college says.

More information

The U.S. National Cancer Institute has more about cervical cancer prevention.

Robert Preidt SOURCE: American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, news release, Jan. 18, 2012

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