Monday, August 17, 2009

How Often Should You Have a Pap Smear?

The frequency in which women get Pap smears is not the same for everyone. While one woman may need an annual Pap smear, another woman may only need a Pap smear every three years. How often a woman needs a Pap smear depends on several factors, like age, general health, and findings from previous Pap smears.
When to Have Your First Pap SmearThe American Cancer Society recommends that women have their first Pap smear about three years after they become sexually active or by age 21, whichever comes first. Subsequent Pap smears should occur every two
years thereafter with a liquid based Pap test or annually with a conventional test.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommend women have an annual Pap until age 30.

If you are well over twenty one and you have never had a Pap smear, it is not too late to have start having regular screenings. Having a regular Pap smear may considerably reduce your risk of developing cervical cancer.Thirty and Over
Unless recommended by a physician, continue screenings annually or every two to three years. Women who have had previous abnormal Pap smears, infected with HPV, or at high risk for cervical cancer may need to be screened more frequently.

At age 30, women have the option of having an HPV test along with their Pap smear. The HPV test identifies women who are infected with high risk strains of HPV that could lead to cervical cancer, if left unmonitored or untreated.Age Sixty-Five and Over At age 65 to 70, women who have had no abnormal Pap smears within the
last 10 years may discontinue having regular Pap smears. This is a decision that has to be made with a physician or other clinician. For women who have a previous history of cervical cancer, abnormal Pap smears, or are at high risk for developing cervical cancer, should continue having regular screenings.

Why Your Daughter Should be Vaccinated with the HPV Vaccine

It is a common misunderstanding that the HPV vaccine is just a vaccine to prevent a sexually transmitted disease. While the human papillomavirus (HPV) is a virus transmitted through sexual contact like other STDs, it can lead to cervical cancer, vaginal cancer, anal cancer, vulvar cancer, and genital warts. HPV's role in the development of many other types of cancer is being investigated by researchers.

In June 2006, the FDA approved the use of Gardasil, an HPV vaccine, in young women ages 9 to 26. It is currently available at many doctor's and public health clinic's offices across the United States. The vaccine has spawned much controversy, which has led to many parents being confused and unsure about whether to have their daughter vaccinated.

Parents are encouraged to make an informed decision about vaccinating their daughters with the HPV vaccine. Talking to the family pediatrician and learning more about HPV and cervical cancer are both recommended by experts to help parents make a decision.

Why Should Your Daughter Get the HPV Vaccine?

1. Gardasil greatly reduces the chances that your daughter will develop cervical cancer. Gardasil protects against two types of HPV that cause 70% of all cases of cervical cancer, thus greatly reducing the risk of developing cervical cancer later in life. About 11,070 women in the United States are diagnosed with cervical cancer each year, and an estimated 3,780 die from the disease.

Because Gardasil does not protect against all types of HPV, women who are vaccinated still need to have regular Pap smears to detect any precancerous changes. The vaccine does not replace the Pap smear and regular Pap smears are necessary for optimum cervical health.

2. Gardasil protects young girls from the two common types of HPV that can cause genital warts. Vaccinated girls are protected from the two types of HPV that are responsible for 90% of genital warts. Genital warts can appear as cauliflower-like growths that can occur on, within, and around the vagina. They also can appear as flat growths that aren't prominent and can go unnoticed. Although genital warts do not pose any immediate health risk, they can be embarrassing for many women and can cause feelings of shame.

3. Gardasil greatly reduces the risk of developing other potentially life-threatening types of cancer. Vaccinating your daughter will greatly reduce the risk of her developing precancerous and abnormal vaginal and vulvar lesions that could become cancerous. The same types of HPV that cause cervical cancer are also linked to vaginal and vulvar cancer. Although less common than cervical cancer, vaginal and vulvar cancer are serious types of cancer that can be life-threatening.

How to Prevent and Reduce Your Risk of HPV

More studies are being done to determine HPV's role in the development of other types of cancer.

HPV is spread through skin-to-skin sexual contact -- no penile penetration or exchange of bodily fluids are needed to contract the virus. The virus is extremely common and it is estimated that more than 70% of the general population is infected with HPV. In most cases, HPV does not cause serious health consequences, like cancer. But for some people, HPV can lead to cancer.
How to Prevent HPV
Currently, there are only two HPV prevention methods: abstinence and the HPV vaccine. There are other ways to help reduce your risk of developing HPV, and those methods are discussed below.

Abstinence. Not having any sexual contact is an absolute way to prevent HPV. For most adults, complete abstinence is unrealistic, so other means of prevention and risk reduction should be followed.
HPV Vaccine. Aside from abstinence, the HPV vaccine is another effective means of preventing HPV. Although it doesn't protect against all strains of HPV, it does provide protection against the four strains of HPV that are most commonly associated with cervical cancer and genital warts.

The FDA approved the use of Gardasil, the HPV vaccine, in 2006. The target age for the vaccine is age 11 through 26, but can be given as early as 9 years of age. The goal is to vaccinate girls before they become sexually active and become exposed to HPV. It protects against two strains that are known to cause cervical cancer in women and two strains that are responsible for genital warts.

How to Reduce Your Risk Of HPV

Practice Safe Sex with a Condom. It is still unclear how good condoms are at decreasing the transmission of HPV, but studies show that women whose partner wore a condom every time they engaged in sexual intercourse cut their risk of developing HPV by about 70%. However, it's important to keep in mind that HPV is not transmitted via the exchange of bodily fluids. It is transmitted though sexual skin-to-skin contact. For example, during intercourse the penis is covered by the condom, leaving other areas of the genitals exposed. These exposed areas may come in contact with the vagina, thus possibly transmitting the virus. And, of course, it's not just heterosexual contact that can transmit the virus -- it's any type of sexual contact.
Limit the Number of Sexual Partners You Have. Limiting the number of sexual partners you have during your lifetime may decrease your risk of contracting HPV. Being in a monogamous, long-term relationship with someone also will greatly reduce your risk of contracting different strains of the virus. In fact, in a monogamous relationship where one or both partners are infected with HPV, the couple helps lower the possibility of becoming infected with another strain of the virus.
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