All women are at risk to get cervical cancer, although it usually affects women over the age of 30. Although it used to be the leading cause of cancer death for women in the United States, rates of the disease and deaths from it have plummeted in the last 40 years. This decline is largely due to more women regularly getting screened for cervical cancer with a Pap test.
Do you know the facts about cervical cancer? Here’s a little True or False fact-check to read through.
Cervical cancer is almost always caused by a virus.
The main cause of cervical cancer is the human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV is very common and is transmitted through sexual contact (intercourse and/or oral sex).
There is no way to prevent cervical cancer.
Cervical cancer can be prevented by vaccinating preteen boys and girls with the HPV vaccine. Screening tests can also prevent cervical cancer from developing. Ask your doctor about HPV screening and Pap tests.
Only girls should get the HPV vaccine.
Both sexes should be vaccinated for HPV. Although HPV most commonly causes cervical, vaginal, and vulvar cancers, it can also cause anal and throat cancers.
Women do not need to get a Pap test annually.
If Pap tests are normal, they can be done on healthy women every three years. Women should start getting Pap tests at age 21, and going forward, they can get a Pap test only, and HPV test only, or both tests. If a woman has a normal HPV test, she can wait up to five years for further testing.
Cervical cancer is hard to detect because it has no symptoms.
Although cervical cancer has no early symptoms, which is why screening tests are so important, as it develops, it can cause vaginal bleeding or discharge that is unusual for a patient.
Cervical cancer cannot be cured.
With early detection, cervical cancer can be successfully treated and cured.
Teach the proper way to perform Pap tests with this cervical model from Pocket Nurse.
Patient-Centered Education about Cervical Cancer
Any woman can develop a gynecological cancer. Cervical cancer is the only gynecological cancer for which there is a vaccine and screening tests. Healthcare providers should encourage women to know their bodies, and what is normal for them. Women should also:
- Make healthy lifestyle choices, including eating well, getting regular exercise, not smoking, and practicing safe sex.
- Know their family health history. All gynecological cancers have different risk factors, and risk increases with age. Knowing family history will help healthcare providers assess risk.
- Get the HPV vaccine if eligible.
- Get regular Pap tests and HPV tests. Women should follow their doctors’ recommendations for when these are most appropriate.