Sunday, April 25, 2010
It's time to ask yourself if you're doing all you can to reduce your risk of cervical cancer. So what's the best way to protect your cervix? For starters, you should know the facts about HPV.
HPV or human papillomavirus, is a sexually transmitted virus responsible for causing genital warts and has been linked to cervical cancer as well as other cancers. Women under thirty can decrease their risk of HPV infection by getting the HPV vaccine and/or using a condom during sexual intercourse. Regular pap smears are also recommended for women 21-30 to detect any abnormal changes in the cells around the cervix.
According to the American Cancer Society, between 60% and 80% of women diagnosed with cervical cancer have not had a pap smear in the past 5 fears. The ACS website advises that “women who have their Pap tests as often as they should are least likely to get cervix cancer.” Women who are at a higher risk of cervical cancer include those who have HPV and it doesn't go away, those who have HIV or AIDS and those who smoke.
For women over 35, however, replacing pap smears with HPV testing may be more effective, according to a new Italian study. Researchers studied a group of Italian women for over three years and found that HPV testing in women over 35 led to fewer cervical cancer deaths. Once women over 35 receive a negative HPV test, they can wait five years before their next test, according to the researchers. HPV testing in place of a pap smear would not be suitable for women under 35, however, since most HPV infections in young women clear up on their own.
A separate study at McGill University in Canada found that 56% of college couples have HPV.The researchers gave questionnaires to 263 college students between the ages of 18 and 24. The participants had been sexually active with their partners for no longer than six months. The study found that HPV spreads quickly in new sexual relationships; most of the couples were infected with HPV within the first couple months after they began having sex. The researchers stressed the need for prevention. 44% of the participants had the type of HPV that causes cancer.
According to the CDC, about 50% of sexually active people will be infected with HPV, but most will not experience any symptoms and the virus will usually clear up on its own. The American Cancer Society also stresses that though most women who have sex will get HPV, most of them will not develop cervical cancer.