Medical Minute: Cervical Cancer Awareness Month

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MINOT, N.D. - Cervical Cancer is the third most common cancer for women. In this week's Medical Minute, we visited with an OBGYN at Trinity about treatment, recent developments, and prevention.

The Center for Disease Control's latest report says nearly 12,000 women were diagnosed with cervical cancer during 2013.

Women are exposed to the cancerous disease through the human papillomavirus which infects the cells in the cervix, changing the DNA structure of those cells and making them cancerous.

Cervical cancer is not genetic and purely associated with HPV, which is usually contracted during sex.

"Any woman can get it. Independent of health, genetics, and for the most part even age," said Dr. David Amsbury, Trinity Health OBGYN.

Though the average age most women are diagnosed is 48, HPV is a virus that a strong immune system can fight, so it is important to screen for the disease early.

"In younger healthier women, they may have it and fight it off without ever knowing and then it goes away but then you can potentially get re exposed," says Dr. David Amsbury, Trinity Health OBGYN.

Although bleeding after sexual intercourse MAY BE a symptom of the disease, there are very few noticeable symptoms of cervical cancer, so the best way to find out if you have it is to get screened for the disease through a pap smear.

The CDC says from 2003 to 2012 the incidence rate of cervical cancer in the U.S. decreased significantly by nearly two percent per year.

Recent developments in screening procedures have made the disease easier to catch.

Most doctors now recommend you get a pap every three years starting at the age of 21.

"The biggest update in terms of pap smears are the co testing, or the HPV co testing along with a pap as well as just the lengthening in between paps," said Dr. David Amsbury, Trinity Health OBGYN.

Like any other cancer, once it starts, it can spread throughout the body and become fatal.

Treatment of the disease include a hysterectomy, radiation, and chemotherapy.

Prevention includes the HPV vaccine, which girls from 11 to 21 can get, and safe sex.

"In order to decrease the risk of exposure to HPV, which is really the base for prevention of cervical cancer, it's important to be in a monogamous relationship with a low risk partner or to use protection with intercourse if you have multiple partners," said Dr. David Amsbury, Trinity Health OBGYN.

Men are also susceptible to HPV, and they can pass it to women.

Amsbury says a vaccine for men is currently in the works but reiterates that getting a pap smear is the best way to keep a clean bill of health.