Mary Ellen Broadstone-Gaeke, MD, Medical Oncologist, Discusses Cervical Cancer Video Transcript
The story of cervical cancer is one of the biggest success stories we have in oncology. Back in the 1940s Dr. Papanicolaou decided that he could diagnose cervix cancer by looking at cytologies taken from patients through a pelvic exam.
This test that was originated by in the 1940s is now known as the Pap smear and we women all know what a Pap smear is about. We are told to get our yearly pelvic exams and Pap smears and we get them as long we were are sexually active. Usually we can stop getting them at age 65. In our country this has been universally adopted and we have had a greater than 75 percent reduction in invasive cervix cancer over the past 50 years. Screening should start after about age of 21 or when a woman starts becoming sexually active. We know that most cervix cancer is caused by the human papillomavirus or HPV. HPV has been associated with cervix cancer to a tune of 99.7 percent. So this is a cancer that is caused by a viral infection. The really good thing to know is that even though we have this infection it takes an average of 15 years from the infection to the manifestation of the malignancy. So we have a wonderful screening tool and the time to use it to prevent women from having invasive cervix cancer.
HPV infection can be prevented. We have all heard about the new vaccine such as Guardasil that can be given to young women and also to young men from age 9 to 16 and even into their 20s to prevent HPV infection completely.
The most important thing to take away about cervical cancer is to be screened and be screened regularly. Some statistics that I have read about cervical cancer is that over 50 percent of women who had been diagnosed with invasive cervix cancer have never had a Pap smear or their Pap smear was done over five years ago. So it is of utmost important to have regular screening Pap smears.
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