How a Pap Smear and HPV Vaccine Can Save Your Life

If you’re like most women, receiving your annual Pap smear isn’t at the top of your to-do list. But this screening is an important one, and could possibly save your life.

More than 4,000 women die annually from cervical cancer. Fortunately, cervical cancer screening is successful in decreasing cancer incidence. The primary goal of screening is to prevent or treat cervical cancer by early detection of abnormalities and precancerous lesions before it is too late.

Screening (Pap smear) starts from age 21 to 65. You do not need Pap smear if you have had a total hysterectomy. Cytology screening is every 3 years, if Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) is included in the screening, then it should be every 5 years. If you receive an abnormal Pap smear result, further screening like a colposcopy (visualization of the cervix, vagina, and vulva with magnifying device) may be required for further evaluation. Precancerous cervical lesions and cervical cancer are caused by HPV in 99% of cases.

The tools for elimination are in our hands: Large studies have shown that widespread use of the HPV vaccine is associated with a significant reduction in the likelihood of invasive cervical cancer. This can dramatically reduce the number of women who will develop cervical cancer. Children ages 11–12 years get two doses of HPV vaccine, which are given 6 to 12 months apart. Children who start the HPV vaccine series on or after their 15th birthday need three doses, which are given 6 months apart. Some at risk adults age 27 through 45 years who were not already vaccinated might choose to get HPV vaccine after discussing risk and benefit with their provider. Males are also encouraged to get the HPV vaccine because they transmit the virus to females through sexual contact.

It can feel a bit intimidating to make a decision to opt for a vaccine for yourself or your child. If you have questions, know that they are important to ask and you are being a great steward of your health or your family’s health by doing so.

Do not hesitate to ask your Avera Medical Group Sibley provider any questions you may have regarding the HPV vaccine and cervical screening; schedule an appointment today at 712-754-5368. To schedule your own or your child’s HPV vaccine, call Osceola Community Health Services at 712-754-3658.