The more you know about your health, the more empowered you are to take control of it. There’s no greater example of the power you have to protect your future when it comes to preventative health visits and cervical cancer. While cervical cancer is one of the most common gynecological cancers, it doesn’t have to be.
With the guidance of their physician, physician assistant or nurse practitioner, women and teens can learn important education and take action that could potentially save their lives. That’s because most types of cervical cancer are now completely preventable.
“Education is queen,” said Dr. Jeffrey Hines, Chief of the Division of Wellstar Gynecologic Oncology, citing better health outcomes for women who have regular visits with their health providers.
It’s not too late to vaccinate
Cervical cancer typically affects women between 30 and 50 years of age. Younger women are also at risk.
Of course, prevention works best when it starts early. The human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine prevents cervical cancer and can be given to children as early as 11 years of age by their pediatrician.
If not previously vaccinated, the HPV vaccine is recommended for everyone through the age of 26 and can be administered by a primary care provider or gynecologist.
Even some adults in their 30s and 40s who were previously unvaccinated benefit from getting an HPV vaccination.
How well does it work?
The HPV vaccine has been found to provide close to 100% protection against infections and pre-cancers caused by HPV.
According to the CDC, HPV infections and cervical precancers (abnormal cells on the cervix that can lead to cancer) have dropped significantly since the vaccine has been in use in the United States. Among teen girls, infections with HPV types that cause most HPV cancers and genital warts have dropped 86 percent. There has been a 71% decrease for young adult women.
Identify cervical cancer earlier for better outcomes
Women can also be screened for cervical cancer at regular intervals. There are two tests that can help:
- The more traditional is a Pap smear, which looks for precancers, or cell changes on the cervix.
- The newer HPV test looks for the human papillomavirus, a virus that can cause the cells to become cancerous.
Most health plans cover preventative care services — like vaccines and screening tests — at no additional cost. For people without insurance, Wellstar Medical Group practices have low-cost annual exams that include evaluation for cervical cancer and a Pap test if it is medically appropriate.
To find a primary care provider, gynecologist or pediatrician, call (770) 956-STAR (7827) or schedule online by clicking the “Book Now” button at the top of any page.
Learn more about gynecological cancer
Take control of your health and read how to lower your risk and recognize the signs gynecological cancer. Also, learn more about what's being done about health inequities in women's healthcare.