“While screening and prevention have greatly reduced the impact of this form of cancer, according to the CDC, in 2019, about 13,000 women were diagnosed with cervical cancer, and more than 4,000 women died from the disease,” shared Dr. Tamara Adducci, obstetrician and gynecologist at Ascension Wisconsin.
Dr. Adduci is a part of the Ascension Wisconsin women’s health care teams, who focus on preventive care and annual screenings, using vaccination to prevent infection with the human papillomavirus (HPV). This sexually transmitted disease can lead to cancer of the cervix and vulva.
Some myths and misconceptions about cervical cancer can lead to confusion when seeking help from a doctor. Dr. Adducci shares three cervical cancer myths and the correct information to help you with cancer prevention.
Myth #1: You cannot prevent cervical cancer.
The Truth: You can prevent cervical cancer. The best way to do this is by getting vaccinated against the human papillomavirus (HPV) and getting screened. HPV is the number one cause of cervical cancer. The American Cancer Society says the vaccine prevents about 90% of cervical cancers caused by HPV. A Pap smear (Pap) is also important for early detection. A Pap smear can detect abnormal cells on the cervix before they turn into cancer and is done during a routine visit and examination with your provider. Cervical cancer is one of the most treatable types of cancer when caught early. Ascension Wisconsin doctors recommend a Pap smear for women 21 and older.
Myth #2: Cervical cancer only affects older women.
The Truth: Cervical cancer can affect any woman of any age. Ascension Wisconsin care teams recommend the HPV vaccine to preteens 11-12 years old. However, girls can start receiving the vaccine at age nine, up through age 26. If you are a woman between the ages 27-45 who have not been vaccinated against HPV, you should speak with your doctor to determine if the HPV vaccine is right for you.
Myth #3: If you don’t have symptoms, you don’t have cancer.
The Truth: The American Cancer Society says cervical cancer usually has no symptoms. This is why doctors suggest regular screenings and timely vaccinations ensure every woman is protected or can be treated early after a diagnosis. There is also no proven link that cervical cancer is hereditary. So whether or not a family member has been diagnosed does not increase or lower your chances of a cervical cancer diagnosis, which is why scheduling routine screenings are so important for early detection.
Screenings to help detect cervical cancer early
Talk with your doctor about screenings that are right for you based on your age, family history, smoking history and other risk factors. If you have been previously diagnosed with cancer or are in remission, screenings may be an ongoing part of your cancer care. Learn more about ways to keep yourself healthy here.
Dr. Tamara Adducci is an OB-GYN and sees patients at Ascension Columbia St. Mary’s Hospital - Ozaukee Campus. Call 262-243-7470 to make an appointment.