What you need to know about treating cervical cancer. Now ranking 14th, cervical cancer was once one of the most common cancers affecting U.S. women. This rate has declined sharply with the introduction of the Pap test, a screening procedure that can find changes in the cervix before the cancer develops. The test can also help to find cervical cancer at an early stage. Several risk factors increase a woman’s chance of developing cervical cancer. The most important risk factor is infection caused by HPV, or human papillomavirus. Other risk factors include smoking, immunosuppression, chlamydia infection and being overweight. Treatment of cervical cancer depends on:
- Stage of the cancer
- Size and shape of the tumor
- A woman’s age and general health
- A woman’s desire to have children
Women’s Health: Cervical Cancer Screenings Have you been screened for cervical cancer? No matter what your age, you should consult with your doctor on whether you are due for a cervical cancer screening. Two Types of Cervical Cancer Screenings Two screening tests can help prevent cervical cancer or find it early:
- The Pap test (or Pap smear) looks for pre-cancers, cell changes on the cervix that might become cervical cancer if they are not treated appropriately.
- The HPV test looks for the virus (human papillomavirus) that can cause these cell changes.
- If you are getting a Pap test, the cells will be checked to see if they look normal.
- If you are getting an HPV test, the cells will be tested for HPV.
- If you are 21 to 29 years old, You should start getting Pap tests at age 21. If your Pap test result is normal, your doctor may tell you that you can wait three years until your next Pap test.
- If you are 30 to 65 years old, talk to your doctor about which testing option is right for you:
- A Pap test only. If your result is normal, your doctor may tell you that you can wait three years until your next Pap test.
- An HPV test only. This is called primary HPV testing. If your result is normal, your doctor may tell you that you can wait five years until your next screening test.
- An HPV test along with the Pap test. This is called co-testing. If both of your results are normal, your doctor may tell you that you can wait five years until your next screening test.
- If you are older than 65, your doctor may tell you that you don’t need to be screened anymore if,
- You have had normal screening test results for several years, or
- You have had your cervix removed as part of a total hysterectomy for non-cancerous conditions, like fibroids.