HPV (human papillomavirus) causes almost all cervix cancers but needs to be in your cervix for many years to cause these abnormal cell changes. HPV is transmitted through sexual contact and most women do not have any symptoms of HPV infection. For many, HPV goes away on its own without causing any problems. However, for some women, HPV infection persists and can cause cervical cancer. HPV is a group of more than 100 different viruses and affects different parts of the body such as the skin and genital areas.
Pap smears or cervical screening involves collecting a small sample of cells from your cervix. From the sample, we are able to look for precancerous cell changes in women with no symptoms, allowing us to detect and treat the cells before they become cancerous. As part of your Pap smear, your cells will also be tested for the HPV virus, so we can understand your risk for developing cancer in the next few years. Pap smears only take a few minutes and can save your life.
THE HPV VACCINATION
An HPV vaccine is available (Gardasil) and is routinely recommended for girls and boys ages 11 or 12, although it can be given as early as age 9. It’s ideal for girls and boys to receive the vaccine before they have sexual contact and are exposed to HPV, as the vaccine may not be as effective after infection and because the response to the vaccine is better at a younger age. Through HPV vaccination and screening we have the chance of eradicating cervical cancer in our lifetime.
Gardasil 9 is a vaccine that helps protect against some diseases caused by 9 types of HPV. The newest Gardasil 9 vaccine offers the widest range of protection against the most common HPV types in the Caribbean so it’s important you ask for the newest vaccine.
HEAR FROM ONE OF OUR PATIENTS
Last November, I went in for my routinely scheduled PAP and HPV test with Dr. Diana and it came back abnormal. This was followed by a high-risk colposcopy result and just before Christmas I had LEEP surgery to remove the abnormal tissue from my cervix. Dr Diana was quick to get the pathology report to me after and I am extremely blessed to be cancer free. While it was scary to have a positive test result, I’m grateful that my whole experience with Dr Diana and OceanMed was also positive.
January happens to be cervical cancer awareness month and it’s also the month of Let’s Talk and Blue Monday. I believe a big part of mental health is feeling like you aren’t alone in what you experience. So hopefully, I reminded at least one person out there who is overdue for a PAP to schedule an appointment and that if someone is struggling with an abnormal result, they know they are not alone. -A.R.