If there’s one message I want to convey to women, it is to simply say don’t skip your Pap smear. I fight the disease of cervical cancer every day with patients who don’t deserve to have the disease and certainly don’t deserve to die from it. The Pap smear and the HPV vaccine are the best tools we have to prevent the disease and catch it early.
Cervical cancer is one of the most preventable cancers, but unfortunately continues to claim the lives of many young Mississippi women.
In the United States, 13,000 new cases of cervical cancer are diagnosed annually and approximately 4,000 women die from it annually. In Mississippi, 140 new cases were diagnosed in 2015 and 60 woman were projected to die from cervical cancer in 2015.
When a woman has an annual “GYN exam,” the physician or provider most often will include a Pap smear. The Pap smear is a test that collects cells from the cervix to detect any abnormal cells that might be pre-cancer or cancerous. If a Pap smear is obtained on routine wellness exams, cervix cancer can be detected early. The earlier an abnormality is detected, the easier it is to treat. Early detection and treatment increases a woman’s chance of survival long term. Since the Pap smear began to be used, cervical cancer death has dropped more than 50 percent in the past 50 years.
Now, we know many women can take action to help prevent cervical cancer. One of the biggest risk factors for cervical cancer is HPV (Human Papilloma Virus) exposure. HPV has many viral strains, some of which are more aggressive and have greater chance to cause cancer. Vaccines against HPV have been developed that have a profound impact on preventing cervical cancer. The HPV vaccine is a series of three injections and should be given to all young women between the ages of 11 and 26.
Get your Paps and HPV vaccines and fight this disease with me.