Did You Know…
- Cervical cancer is the most EASILY detectable female cancer.
- A Pap test, Pap smear or Pap (for short) is the screening tool used to detect changes within your cervix.
- If abnormalities within your cervix are left undetected, they have the potential to progress towards cancer.
How Do You Know If You Should Be Screened?
If you are 21 years or older, you should begin getting your Pap.
- If your Pap was normal, you can now wait 3 years before having another.
- If you are 30 years old or older, you now have the option to be tested for human papillomavirus (HPV) in addition to your Pap. At the time of your appointment, bring this up to your Ob/Gyn or Primary Care Physician (PCP). The benefit of being tested for HPV during your Pap is that if your Pap comes back normal and is negative for HPV, you don’t have to have another Pap for 3-5 years! (However, it is still recommended you see your provider annually for your preventative health exam.)
- Cervical cancer screenings (Paps) should be continued until you’re 65 years old.
If you are older than 65 and…
- have had your cervix removed as part of a total hysterectomy for non-cancerous conditions (such as fibroids), you may not have to have a Pap again, but this should definitely be discussed with your doctor.
What changes if you’ve received the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination?
The HPV vaccine does not prevent against all types of cervical cancer, which is why it is important that if you have been vaccinated you still need to have routine Pap tests. 19 types of HPV are linked to cervical cancer, unfortunately the vaccine, while still a great preventative option, does not prevent against all types of HPV.
What increases your risk for cervical cancer?
- If you have HPV and smoke tobacco you are 14 times more likely to get cervical cancer within 9 years. Whereas nonsmokers who had HPV were 6 times more likely to get cancer. Smoking enhances HPV’s growing rate by suppressing your immunity enabling an optimal environment for cancer growth.
Engaging in high-risk sexual behavior. This includes:
- Early age at onset of sexual activity
- ≥12 sexual partners
- Contraction of sexually transmitted diseases
- Men whose previous partner had cervical cancer
- Utilizing non-barrier methods of contraception:
- Oral contraceptives have been associated with an increased incidence of cancer whereas diaphragms and condoms offer modest protection from HPV.
What are some natural treatments for cervical cancer prevention?
- Supplements such as mixed carotenoids, vitamin C and folic acid may prevent cervical cancer.
- Abstinence from tobacco.
- Limit the number of sexual partners if engaging in sexual activity. If you are sexually active, utilize a barrier method such as condoms or a diaphragm.
- If you are taking immunosuppressive medications, let your doctor know as you may require more vigorous screening than what is outlined above.
- What’s your family history? If you have a sister(s) or first degree female relatives with cervical cancer tell your doctor as some patients are genetically more sensitive to HPV.
This information above is not intended to diagnose or treat medical conditions, it is provided solely for informational purposes. If you have specific questions related to your treatment or are planning to change your medical plan, first discuss this with your medical provider. If you are interested in exploring integrative cancer treatment options please schedule a telemedicine appointment with Dr. McMurry. Dr. McMurry’s goal is to increase access to naturopathic preventative medicine. She provides on-site workplace preventative health appointments to employees. As well as telemedicine (virtual video) appointments to cancer patients seeking integrative naturopathic cancer care. If you’re interested in learning more about what she does and/or who she is please feel free to email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- American Cancer Society. The American Cancer Society Guidelines for the Prevention and Early Detection of Cervical Cancer. November 2016. https://www.cancer.org/cancer/cervical-cancer/prevention-and-early-detection/cervical-cancer-screening-guidelines.html
- USPTF. Cervical Cancer: Screening. March 2012. https://www.uspreventiveservicestaskforce.org/Page/Document/UpdateSummaryFinal/cervical-cancer-screening
- CDC. Gynecologic Cancer. What should I know about screening? March 29, 2016.
- USPTF. Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention. November 2006. https://www.uspreventiveservicestaskforce.org/Page/Document/UpdateSummaryFinal/cervical-cancer-screening