January is "Cervical Health Awareness Month" and those in the health field around the country, including SIU School of Medicine in Springfield, are urging women to get screened. Cervical cancer is usually caused by HPV, a virus that can sometimes be prevented with the use of vaccines. You can find guidelines on how frequently Pap tests are suggested by The American Cancer Society here. We spoke with Tracey Hubbard, an area woman who is a cervical cancer survivor:
Facts about HPV, Cervical Cancer & Prevention
from SIU School of Medicine
The National Cancer Institute (NCI) recommends that women undergo a Pap test every three years beginning at age 21. At age 30, doctors recommend getting both a Pap test and HPV test every five years. Women with certain risk factors may need to have more frequent screenings or continue screening beyond age 65.
More than half of new cervical cancer cases occur among women who have never or have rarely been screened, according to a 2014 report by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Almost all cervical cancers, as many as 93 percent of cases, could be prevented by screening and the HPV vaccination, the report suggests. Other risk factors include, but are not limited to, smoking, being overweight, a family history of cervical cancer, a diet low in fruits and vegetables, long term use of oral contraceptives, multiple full term pregnancies and full term pregnancies in women under age 17.
Symptoms of cervical cancer often do not appear until the cancer has become invasive. At that point, women may experience abnormal bleeding and spotting between menstrual periods, an unusual vaginal discharge or pain during intercourse.
In Illinois, approximately 8.4 women in every 100,000 will experience cervical cancer, and of those, 2.6 will die. To schedule a Pap smear or HPV test or to receive an HPV vaccine, visit www.siuhealthcare.org or call 217-545-8000.