Since most cervical cancers are associated with HR-HPV, new HPV vaccines have the potential to prevent cervical cancer. A vaccine called Gardasil® offers vaccination from the two most common HPV viruses that cause cervical cancers as well as the two most common HPV viruses that cause genital warts. The FDA approved the use of this drug in 2006.
The FDA recommends vaccination for females ages 11 to 26. The vaccine is most effective when given to girls between the ages of 11 to 12, or prior to sexual activity. Three doses of the vaccine are given by injection during a six-month period.
For more information on Gardasil, click here.
Pap Smear/Pap Test
The Pap smear is a screening procedure used to detect abnormal cells in and around the cervix. In this screening test, cells are collected from in and around the cervix and an abnormal result can mean inflammation of the cervix, bacterial infection, or other causes.
The American Cancer Society (ACS) recommends that women should begin having pap smears beginning three years after starting vaginal intercourse and no later than age 21. After the age of 30, the ACS suggests that women with three or more consecutive normal Pap smears and exams may have Pap smears performed less frequently. The American College of Obstetricians & Gynecologists offers somewhat different guidelines-your course of action should be discussed with your doctor.
If you have ever had an abnormal Pap smear or have been treated for cervical dysplasia (a precancerous lesion) or cancer, you may need to have a Pap smear more frequently, as determined by your doctor.
Further discussion about frequency of screening should occur with your doctor if you have had a hysterectomy for reasons other than to treat a pre-cancerous lesion. If you have had normal exams and Pap smears since removal of the uterus, you may be eligible to forgo testing in the future.