If it’s caught early, cervical cancer is not a deadly disease, Emerson said. There are about 13,000 cases of cervical cancer each year in the United States and about 3,000 of those result in death.
FLORENCE — Cervical cancer is the third most common cancer of the lower genital tract in women, but doctors say it’s also one of the most preventable — but only if women take an active role in their health care.
“Cervical cancer is one of the most preventable cancers we know about,” Emerson said. “As long as ladies get screenings according to the guidelines and what their doctors recommend, it’s very treatable and avoidable, really,” he said.
The frequency of cervical cancer testing depends on the age group. Doctors suggest women start getting screened for cervical cancer at 21 and get annual exams until they reach 30.
Testing for the human papillomavirus (HPV), the virus that causes cervical cancer, is recommended for women older than 30, Emerson said. If the HPV test is negative, then a pap smear is needed every three years, he said.
“We believe there is a strong correlation between the human papillomavirus and cervical cancer,” he said. “Recent screening suggestions by the College of OB/GYN have changed somewhat and it’s kind of age dependent. Younger ladies still need a pap smear and if it comes back abnormal, they need a HPV test.”
There potentially are other cancers that are caused by viruses, Emerson said.
Patients with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) develop Kaposi Sarcoma, a type of cancer, he said.
HPV causes cervical cancer by incorporating itself into the DNA of cells.
“All of our cells have the ability to resist cancer,” Emerson said. “When HPV gets into the cell it turns on those oncogenes. If they are turned on, then it makes the cell more prone to develop cancer.”
There also are certain types of HPV that are more likely to cause cervical cancer, he said. Strains 16 and 18 are probably the most common, but there are also strains 33 and 35.
“Girls that are more prone to getting HPV and cervical cancer are girls who are more sexually active, girls who have more sexual partners, start sexual activity at a younger age, smokers and ladies of lower social-economic class,” Emerson said. “It’s a game of Russian roulette. It’s more partners you could possibly get HPV from and it’s more chances that you get exposed to it and more chances you’ll be exposed to the wrong kind — the kind that increases your risk of cervical cancer.”
Interesting to note that Gardasil got a one-line mention at the end of the article. Hmmm – makes one stop to think if the HPV vaccine honeymoon is over…..not before it created death and despair in its wake….