Getting Pap tests helps to find cervical cancerWomen and men alike can help fight cervical cancer through vaccination, and women can further protect themselves by regularly receiving Pap tests. “You can’t necessarily see (cervical cancer) or feel it, so that’s the importance of having someone check with an annual exam,” said Deb Fischer, public health nurse and Women’s Way coordinator.
By: By Kari Lucin, The Jamestown Sun, The Jamestown Sun
Women and men alike can help fight cervical cancer through vaccination, and women can further protect themselves by regularly receiving Pap tests.
“You can’t necessarily see (cervical cancer) or feel it, so that’s the importance of having someone check with an annual exam,” said Deb Fischer, public health nurse and Women’s Way coordinator.
In a Pap test, a doctor examines the vagina and cervix, and collects some cells for testing. The test won’t prevent cancer, but it can find abnormal cells before they turn into cancer.
“Just like a mammogram, it’s not fun to get it, but it’s necessary, to know what’s going on in our bodies,” Fischer said.
Some women don’t get Pap tests because it’s uncomfortable. Others don’t because they don’t have insurance that will cover the test, or because they’re afraid to find out they may have cancer.
Six out of 10 cervical cancers occur in women who have not received a Pap test, or have not been tested in the past five years, according to the North Dakota Cancer Coalition.
Women should begin receiving Pap tests at age 21.
Women should be tested annually three consecutive times, and then they should go in for a test every three years, Fischer said — provided they do not have any high-risk behaviors, change sexual partners or have a family or personal history of cervical issues.
Women who test positive for HPV should also be tested more often.
HPV, a common virus in both men and women, causes 99.7 percent of all cervical cancers.
Most people who have it are not aware of it, and most of the time, the body’s immune system can clear the virus naturally within two years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, there is no way of knowing which people who get HPV will be fine and which will develop cancer.
Vaccines that protect people against some types of HPV are available. According to the CDC, Cervarix protects against most cervical cancers in women.
The other vaccine, Gardasil, also protects against cervical cancers in women, but it is also available to men.
“HPV vaccines are recommended for all teen girls and women through age 26, who did not get all three doses of the vaccine when they were younger,” the CDC states on its website, also recommending that men be vaccinated.
The vaccines are especially beneficial before people have any type of sexual activity, which is why it is recommended for young people — age 11 or 12. The vaccines may be given as early as age 9.
Both vaccines are considered highly effective, and no serious adverse events have been associated them either — though some recipients have experienced pain, redness or swelling where they received the shots.
Vaccines against HPV are available at Central Valley Health District, as well as at local clinics. Typically, they are covered by health insurance.
Other ways to reduce the risk of getting cervical cancer include limiting the number of one’s sexual partners, using condoms during sex or mouth guards during oral sex, and not smoking.
Cervical cancer was once the leading cause of death by cancer for American women, but due to early detection through Pap testing and prevention through vaccination, it is on the decline.
“When cervical cancer is found early, it is highly treatable,” the CDC states.
Sun reporter Kari Lucin can be reached at 701-952-8453
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