Cervical health examinations a start to control HPV threat

| January 21, 2016 | 0 Comments
Each year, millions of men and women are infected with the Human Papillomavirus. Knowing some key facts about HPV, such as how to prevent contracting the virus, can prevent potentially life-threatening cancers. (courtesy graphics)

Each year, millions of men and women are infected with the Human Papillomavirus. Knowing some key facts about HPV, such as how to prevent contracting the virus, can prevent potentially life-threatening cancers. (courtesy graphics)

Cpl. Angelique Jefferson
Army News Service
SCHOFIELD BARRACKS — January is Cervical Health Awareness month, and what a great time to focus on the prevention of cervical cancer.

Focusing on preventing the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) can go a long way in preventing cervical cancer and promoting overall cervical health.

Many people do not know that HPV is one of the leading causes of cervical cancer. Thankfully, there is a vaccination that can help prevent this virus, thus reducing the risk for cancer.

There are approximately 150 different types of HPV, of which, about 40 affect the genital area.
“Most sexually active people will come into contact and be infected with HPV at some point in their lifetime,” said Eileen Gawrys, nurse practitioner, OB/GYN Clinic, Tripler Army Medical Center.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) report that 14 million people will be infected with HPV in the next year alone.

Most people won’t even know they are infected with this common condition, and most of the time, the virus clears up in a couple of years. Unfortunately, sometimes it persists and gets worse and, if left undiagnosed and untreated, certain types of HPV can lead to cervical cancer and other HPV-related cancers in both women and men.

The most recent statistics available from the CDC show that in 2009 approximately 34,788 new HPV-related cancers were diagnosed in the United States. It also shows that within the last four years, more than 12,000 U.S. women were diagnosed with cervical cancer and more than 4,000 women died from cervical cancer.

Three key points should be considered when dealing with the prevention of HPV and cervical cancer.
•First, is it important to get the HPV vaccination series for girls and boys at the ages of 11-12, before any sexual activity, although some may start the vaccine series earlier?
If the vaccine is not administered at these ages, it can still be effectively administered at older ages.
The CDC reminds us that the HPV vaccination is Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved and is well-tolerated, safe and effective. Condoms are also helpful in preventing this virus although not a perfect solution as some skin-to-skin contact still may occur.
•Second, cervical cancer screening for women should start at the age of 21.
Be sure to visit your health care provider annually for a well-woman exam and find out what is the latest recommendation, for your age group, for this screening, which may be a Papanicolaou (Pap) smear or an HPV test.
•Third, it is important to follow up if you do have an abnormal Pap. A positive Pap smear does not necessarily mean cervical cancer, which is slow-growing and largely preventable with proper preventative measures and follow up.
Parents and patients are encouraged to have a discussion with their health care provider about the HPV vaccination and Pap smear guidelines.  This discussion can serve as a vital part of cervical cancer prevention.
(Editor’s note: Jefferson works at Regional Health Command-Pacific.)

Making Appointments
Currently, two women’s health nurse practitioners are located in the Family Medicine Clinic at U.S. Army Health Clinic-Schofield Barracks (USAHC-SB). Appointments can be scheduled by logging into Tricare Online (TOL) or by calling the appointment line at (808) 433-2778, Option 2. To begin or continue with the HPV vaccination series, patients are encouraged to stop by the Immunization Clinic.

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Category: Community, Health

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