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Cervical Cancer (cont.)

Is Follow-up Necessary After Treatment of Cervical Cancer?

Regular pelvic examinations and Pap smears are important for every woman. These tests are even more important for a woman who has been treated for precancerous changes or for cancer of the cervix.

  • Follow-up care should include a full pelvic examination, Pap smear, and other tests as indicated on a regular schedule recommended by the gynecologist.
  • These precautions are necessary to allow early detection should the cancer return.

Cancer treatment may cause side effects many years later. For this reason, a woman should continue to have regular checkups and should report any health problems that appear.

Is It Possible to Prevent Cervical Cancer?

The key to preventing invasive cervical cancer is to detect any cell changes early, before they become cancerous. Regular pelvic examinations and Pap smears are the best way to do this. How often a woman should have a pelvic exam and Pap smear depends on her individual situation.

  • Women between the ages of 21-30 should have Pap tests every three years.
  • Women over age 30 may opt to have HPV and Pap co-testing every five years or a Pap test alone every three years.
  • If a woman has had precancerous changes or cancer of the cervix, her gynecologist will recommend a schedule of follow-up examinations and tests.
  • Women who have had the HPV vaccine (see below) should still have Pap tests.

Avoidance of human papillomavirus (HPV) infection is becoming increasingly important in the prevention of precancerous and cancerous changes of the cervix.

  • Early age at first intercourse is associated with an increased risk of cervical cancer. Abstinence is recommended as one way to prevent the transmission of HPV.
  • Likewise, barrier protection, such as condom use, may prevent HPV infection, although this has not yet been fully studied.

Two HPV vaccines have been approved for the prevention of HPV infection. Both vaccines are given in three doses over a six-month period.

Gardasil is a vaccine that targets four different types of HPV. It is approved for use in females for the prevention of cervical cancer, and some vulvar and vaginal cancers, caused by HPV types 16 and 18, and for use in males and females for the prevention of anal cancer and precancerous anal lesions caused by HPV types 16 and 18. Gardasil is also approved for the prevention of genital warts caused by HPV types 6 and 11. The vaccine is approved for these uses in females and males ages 9-26. Gardasil-9 is a newer form of the vaccine that targets nine different types of HPV.

The Cervarix vaccine targets two HPV types: 16 and 18, which are the types associated with the majority of cervical cancers. The FDA has approved Cervarix for use in females aged 9-25 for the prevention of cervical cancer caused by HPV types 16 and 18.

Cigarette smoking is another risk factor for cervical cancer that can be prevented. Quitting smoking may decrease one's chances of developing cervical cancer.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 9/30/2016

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Cervical cancer is the second most common malignancy in women worldwide, and it remains a leading cause of cancer-related death for women in developing countries.

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