By Dr. Hadass Fuerst & Dr. Marissa Jacobs
Women’s Health Week kicks off on Mother’s Day every year. This year for Women’s Health Week from May 14 – 20, NOAH is highlighting three health issues that women should be familiar with and should discuss with their provider any time of year.
NOAH recommends that everyone have a primary care provider (PCP) and a medical home. If you don’t have one or both of these, contact NOAH and establish a PCP who is right for you!
What is Cervical Cancer and what causes it?
Cervical cancer is a cancer that forms at the lower end of the uterus. Most cervical cancers are caused by Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), the most spread sexually transmitted infection (STI). About 80% of people will be infected with this virus at some point in their lives, and most people’s bodies will naturally fight off the virus. For those who can’t fight it off, HPV can lead to health issues like cervical cancer later in life. That’s why the HPV vaccine is so important. More on that later.
How Can I Lower My Risk of Cervical Cancer?
Yes! First, get regular Pap smears/tests. According to the CDC, millions of women aged 21-65 haven’t had a Pap test in the last five years! Pap tests are covered by private insurance and Medicaid/AHCCCS and are the best way to diagnose any problems. Pap tests save lives.
Second, get the HPV vaccine if possible. It is safe and very effective at reducing the risk of getting HPV-caused cancers later in life.
The CDC estimates that around 93% of cervical cancer cases could be prevented by regular Pap tests and HPV vaccine.
How Often Do I need a Pap Test?
It used to be that Pap tests were recommended every year. With what we know now about HPV and cervical cancer risk factors, that recommendation has changed. The new recommendation for people also being tested for HPV is every three years for people aged 21-29, and every five years for people 30-65.
Who Can Get HPV Vaccines?
Typically, the three-dose HPV vaccine is recommended for males and females around age 11 or 12. We wrote all about the HPV vaccine here!