Charles Dietrich: Prevention of cervical cancer is possible with increased screening and awareness

It is estimated that more than 14,000 women in the United States are diagnosed with cervical cancer each year. Kentucky has a higher burden of cervical cancer than most states, with an incidence rate of 9.6 cases per 100,000 women.

All women, especially those over 30, are at risk for cervical cancer; However, the disease is highly preventable with screening tests and vaccines that are widely available and effective.

dr Karl S. Dietrich III

Possible signs of cervical cancer include abnormal vaginal discharge, odor, or irregular bleeding such as B. spotting between menstrual cycles or after vaginal intercourse. Any bleeding after menopause should be investigated. If cervical cancer is caught early, it is highly treatable and has a high chance of survival. Advanced cervical cancer is more difficult to treat and treatment options have a significant impact on quality of life.

In general, women by the age of 21 should have discussions with their GPs about the best time to start screening. Pelvic exams are a crucial part of optimizing women’s health. Routine pelvic exams are recommended once women become sexually active to detect possible signs of vulvar problems, ovarian cysts, sexually transmitted infections (STIs), uterine fibroids, or early-stage cancer.

Most obstetricians and gynecologists recommend starting screening at age 21, with a Pap test every three years. A Pap smear is only one part of the pelvic exam, and the interval may be different for everyone. From the age of 30, the HPV co-test can be used to extend the screening interval to every five years.

HPV infection is the most important risk factor for cervical cancer. There are more than 100 different types of HPV, but 14 high-risk strains cause the majority of cervical cancers in the United States. Other risk factors that increase the risk of cervical cancer include:

• Sexually transmitted infections such as chlamydia, HIV and herpes simplex virus.
• Sexually active aged 15 or younger.
• Do not use condoms.
• High number of pregnancy births.
• Use of oral contraceptives.
• To smoke cigarettes.
• Obesity.
• Poor diet.
• Immunosuppression.

HPV vaccination has the greatest potential to eliminate the risk of cervical cancer, and several countries around the world are on track to eliminate cervical cancer from their populations in the next decade. Kentucky has one of the lowest HPV vaccination rates in the country, with only 45 percent of eligible girls ages 13 to 17 being vaccinated.

Gardasil-9 is the primary vaccine available in the United States. Routine vaccination is recommended for both girls and boys aged 11 to 12, and a two-dose vaccination series can be given 6 to 12 months apart if completed before age 14. Vaccination is most effective if completed before age 26 but can be given up to age 45 with shared clinical decision-making.

dr Charles S. Dietrich III, MD, is a gynecologic oncologist at the University of Kentucky Markey Cancer Center

Comments are closed.