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Six things you should know about cervical cancer
by Article provided by Karen Blum · February 1st, 2018

January is Cervical Health Awareness Month. About 13,200 women in the U.S. will be diagnosed with cervical cancer in 2018 and more than 4,100 will die of the disease. In Iowa alone, 200 women will be diagnosed and 150 will die of cervical cancer.

Most cervical cancers can be prevented by getting vaccinated for the human papillomavirus (HPV) and by getting recommended cancer screenings. But there is more you should know about this disease.

• Nearly all cervical cancers are caused by HPV. The virus is responsible for more than 90 percent of all cervical cancers, but most HPV infections won't lead to cancer.

• The HPV vaccine is most effective when given to preteens, but teens and young adults should also receive it. Two doses are recommended for 11- to 12-year-old girls and boys when the immune system response is strongest. Females age 13 to 26 and most males age 13 to 21 should also receive the vaccine series if they haven't yet (three doses are recommended for those 15 or older).

• African-American and Hispanic women are more likely to be diagnosed with and die of cervical cancer. This is in part because of lower screening rates for minorities due to cultural and socioeconomic factors.

• Smoking increases your risk for cervical cancer. Women who smoke are twice as likely to develop cervical cancer as those who don't. Smoking can also weaken the immune system's response to HPV.

• Your Pap test can help you prevent cervical cancer (or detect it early). A pelvic exam and Pap test can reveal precancerous conditions of the cervix. Women in their twenties should have a Pap test every three years. For women ages 30-65, the preferred way to screen is with a Pap test combined with an HPV test every five years, or a Pap test every three years.

• An abnormal Pap test does not mean you have cervical cancer. Your health care professional may recommend further testing to determine if any treatment is necessary, depending on your age and family history. In most cases, abnormal cells can be monitored and will go away on their own.

To learn more about cervical cancer prevention, symptoms and treatment, visit

Karen Blum is a member of the Prevent Cancer Foundation's Congressional Families Cancer Prevention Program, and the spouse of U.S. Representative Rod Blum. Statistics provided by the American Cancer Society, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Cancer Institute (NCI).
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