Detect the virus that can cause cervical cancer
Cervical cancer is among the most preventable forms of cancer, and screening is an important part of early detection. That’s great news for women ages 21 to 65.
HPV: The cause of most cases of cervical cancer
Cervical cancer develops when cells on the cervix become abnormal then change and become cancerous.
A common virus, the Human Papillomavirus (HPV)
, is largely responsible for causing normal cells to change and become abnormal.
It can take decades for cervical cancer to develop. That’s why early detection is so important. The early stages of cervical cancer usually do not come with symptoms. It is rare to see or feel symptoms until the HPV virus is advanced. Women with advanced cervical cancer may have abnormal bleeding, discharge, or pain.
The HPV Infection
HPV is spread through sexual activitiy, specifically skin tomucus membrane contact.
The HPV infection is very common in young women, and for most, HPV resolves on its own. That is why testing for HPV is generally not needed before age 30.
But for women ages 21 to 29, when a Pap test results comes back as abnormal, a doctor may decide to test for HPV.
Doctors order the HPV test for women over 30 to determine if they are at a higher risk for cervical cancer. if HPV is present, these women need to be screened more often.
Professional guidelines recommend that women between the ages 30-65 get tested with Pap and HPV together, called co-testing, as studies show that provides the best screening protection for women in this age group.
During an office visit, your doctor collects cervical cells with a simple swab of the cervix (just as they do for Pap test). Your cells are then sent to the laboratory to determine if you test positive for the HPV virus.
Regular screenings are the best way to discover problems before they develop into cervical cancer. That way, if abnormal cells are found, they can be monitored, or if necessary, treated before cancer develops.
Treating an HPV Infection
Although there is not treatment for the HPV virus, there are effective treatments for abnormal cervical cells. When HPV is detected, abnormal cervical cells are destroyed or removed. This can help prevent the cells from turning into cancer.
And altthough no treatment is a guarantee, your doctor can recommend regular follow-up screenings to find problems early and treat them before they turn into cervical cancer.
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