January is Cervical Cancer month and Evolve Medical is helping to spread the word about the link with HPV and the cure for cervical cancer. Every year, about 13,000 cases of cervical cancer are diagnosed in the United States and 4,000 women die (according to the CDC and cancer.org). Worldwide, over 250,000 women die every year from cervical cancer.
On the evening of January 12, 2015, a large crowd gathered at Harbor Center to see a screening of HPV Epidemic: Someone You Love. The film was powerful, impactful and very motivating. Please help us spread the word about this preventable cancer.
A Little Background
When cancer starts in the cervix, it is called cervical cancer. The cervix is the lower, narrow end of the uterus. Also known as the womb, the uterus is where a baby grows when a woman is pregnant. The cervix connects the upper part of the uterus to the vagina (the birth canal).
Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the main cause of cervical cancer. HPV is a common virus that is passed from one person to another during sex. The rate of HPV rate is as high as 80%. Most cases of HPV will clear on their own.
There are more than 100 types of HPV. About 30 or so types can cause genital infections. Some can cause genital warts; other types can cause cervical or other genital cancers. The other 70 or so HPV types can cause infections and warts elsewhere on the body, such as on the hands.
It is important to realize that HPV infection can occur with or without actual intercourse. If the genitals touch, HPV can spread (therefore, condoms do not entirely prevent the spread). HPV can also be contracted orally if in contact with HPV positive genitalia. Unfortunately, there is a stigma attached to HPV because the risk of acquiring it does rise with the number of sexual partners BUT HPV can be contracted with just your first and only partner.
“The stigma is ridiculous since 80% of us will have HPV at some point in our lives.” —Frederick Lumier (Producer/Director/Editor of HPV Epidemic: Someone You Love).
Certain HPV types are classified as “high-risk” because they lead to abnormal cell changes and can cause genital cancers: cervical cancer as well as cancer of the vulva, anus, and penis. In fact, researchers say that virtually all cervical cancers — more than 99% — are caused by these high-risk HPV viruses. The most common of the high-risk strains of HPV are types 16 and 18, which cause about 70% of all cervical cancers.
If the body clears the infection, the cervical cells return to normal. But if the body doesn’t clear the infection, the cells in the cervix can continue to change abnormally. This can lead to precancerous changes or cervical cancer.
Can Cervical Cancer Be Prevented?
Since the PAP smear was invented, the rate of cervical cancer has dropped dramatically. But PAP smears only look for pre-cancerous or early cancers so they can be treated. Can we actually prevent the cancer from occurring in the first place?
Yes–by stopping HPV from ever taking root. High risk types of HPV can be prevented and this, in turn, prevents over 99% of cervical cancer.
There are 2 vaccines for use in females and males aged 9 to 26. Guardasil was approved in 2006 and Cervarix in 2009. Over time, widespread vaccination will help prevent transmission of the HPV types covered by the vaccines.
The Gardasil HPV vaccine protects against several high-risk strains of HPV, including HPV types 16 and 18, which account for 70% of cervical cancers. It also protects against HPV 6 and 11, which account for about 90% of genital warts. Cervarix protects against HPV types 16 and 18.
According to the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices girls should be vaccinated with one of the two vaccines between the ages of 11 and 12, before they become sexually active.
Much of the information above can be found at the National Cancer Institute’s web page or the CDC’s page on cervical cancer.