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Are You At Risk For Cervical Cancer?
A Pap test and pelvic exam can help detect abnormalities that may lead to cancer of the cervix. “When detected in the early stages, treatment is more likely to be successful and offers better outcomes for the patient,” says Joyce Holz, MD, FACOG, MIGS, a board-certified physician specializing in Gynecology at Kelsey-Seybold Clinic.
Dr. Holz recommends that women should start having pelvic exams and Pap tests by age 21 or within three years of becoming sexually active and continue having their annual well-woman exam. Screening for human papilloma virus (HPV) will be performed at least once for females 13 – 64 years old.
After age 65, women who have had at least three normal Pap tests with no abnormal results may want to speak with their doctor about discontinuing cervical cancer screening.
“Infection from HPV, which is sexually transmitted, is responsible for many cases of cervical cancer,” Dr. Holz says. “In some instances, there are no noticeable symptoms – and that’s another reason regular well-woman exams are so important.”
Other risk factors may include smoking, a suppressed immune system, and sex partners indulging in high-risk activities.
“The incidences of cervical cancer, and deaths attributed to it, are decreasing in the United States. However, unless your physician tells you differently, Pap screening should be considered an integral part of a woman’s routine healthcare,” says Dr. Holz.