January Marks Cervical Cancer Screening Month

By: Marcus Washington
By: Marcus Washington

January 5, 2006

Karen D'Alessandro is like many people, she's always trying to keeps a sharp eye on her health.

"Just to make sure that I'm in tune with my body and that I'm healthy and there's nothing that needs to be treated," said Karen D'Alessandro who received a cervical cancer screening.

Karen, along with 89% of American women receive regular screenings for cervical cancer. Although several women are screened, the disease kills nearly 4,000 women in the United States each year. Doctors say that number could drop drastically if more women would go to a doctor for annual screenings.

"We [in the U.S.] have an excellent cervical cancer screening program with pap smears. Women who get their pap smears every year virtually decrease their risk to zero of developing cervical cancer," said Dana Redick, Gynecologist.

Cervical Cancer is formed in the lower part of the uterus. What many people didn't know, it is an STD. High risk types of Human Papilloma Virus, HPV, cause Cervical Cancer and is spread by intimate skin to skin contact.

"It's very clearly a cancer that's associated with a sexually transmitted disease, human papilloma virus infection," said Mark Stoler, Professor of Pathology & Gynecology at the University of Virginia.

Finding out if you are at risk of cervical cancer is done with a simple test. Both doctors and patients say the procedure takes no more that two minutes to administer.

"In general it's a fairly comfortable procedure," said Dr. Redick.

Once a sample is gathered from the patient, the cells are dipped into a special solution, which is then sent off to a lab for testing.

"It takes maybe a minute to two minutes, tops," said D'Alessandro of the procedure.

Typically, test results are back within a week, assuring many women that they are doing just fine.

"Then that puts me completely at peace and makes me feel so self assured and comfortable with my health," said D'Alessandro.

Doctors say most women should start having their yearly screenings by the time they are 21, but if sexual activity starts earlier, then screenings should begin at least 3 years after their first experience.

A vaccine for cervical cancer has been approved and should be available in 2006.

For a more information about cervical cancer, contact the National Women's Health Information Center at 800-994-9662.

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