I will never forget the first patient I lost after becoming an oncologist. She had two young children and was diagnosed with advanced cervical cancer. Her goal towards the end of her life was to witness her son’s kindergarten graduation, and she did, before dying a week later.
Cervical cancer can be a life-threatening disease, however, with appropriate intervention, it is easily preventable and treatable. Almost all cases of cervical cancer are caused by HPV, which is a virus. A very effective vaccination against this virus is now available and is a series of three injections, which should be given to all women and men between the ages of 11 and 26 to help prevent the development of cervical cancer, as well as a number of other cancers. Regardless of vaccination status, women should also have screening pap smears beginning at the age of 21.
Unfortunately, there are many cancer types that do not have good screening tests, however the pap smear has been proven to save lives. It is heartbreaking to think these could have prevented my patient’s children from losing their mom at such an early age.
Encourage your friends and family to have routine pap smears and consider vaccinations for themselves and their children. Spread the word, and let’s save lives together.