The cervix is the lower, narrow end of the uterus and when cancer starts in this area, it is called cervical cancer. Each year more than 350 North Carolina women are diagnosed with cervical cancer and over 100 die from the condition, according to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services. The majority of these deaths occur in women over the age of 45.
Although cervical cancer starts from the cells with pre-cancerous changes, only some of the women with pre-cancer of the cervix will develop cancer. For those that do, treating cervical pre-cancers can prevent almost all cervical cancers.
Dr. Grainger Lanneau, chief of gynecology oncology at Vidant Health/Vidant Cancer Care said, “The two most important things to do to prevent cervical cancer are to get the HPV vaccine if you are eligible, and to be tested regularly according to American Cancer Society (ACS) guidelines.”
Pre-cancerous changes can be detected by the Pap test and treated to prevent cancer from developing. The HPV test looks for infection by high-risk types of HPV that are more likely to cause pre-cancers and cancers of the cervix. HPV infection has no treatment, but a vaccine can help prevent it.
These tests are done in the same way with a special tool used to gently scrape or brush the cervix to remove the cells for testing. If pre-cancer is found, it can be treated, keeping it from turning into a cervical cancer. The result of the HPV test, along with past test results, determines your risk of developing cervical cancer. If the test is positive, this could mean more follow-up visits, more tests to look for a pre-cancer or cancer and sometimes a procedure to treat any pre-cancers that might be found.
For more information about the risks and prevention of cervical cancer, or if you do not have a primary care provider, please contact the Prevention Clinic at Vidant Cancer Care (252) 816-RISK (7475).