PLAINS TOWNSHIP, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU-TV) — When it comes to women and cancer, the most common types are breast, colon and lung.
But there’s another cancer that takes the lives of nearly 300,000 women worldwide. It’s cervical cancer with an estimated half-million or more new cases diagnosed a year.
While the numbers are far less in the US, too many American women are dying from a disease a local specialist says is very much preventable.
What obstetrics and gynecologist specialist Manny Arreguin is holding is considered a major medical key.
“Cervical cancer is one of those illnesses that we have largely eradicated,” Dr. Arreguin said.
He credits that largely in part to the vaccine for Human Papillomavirus commonly called HPV. It’s a sexually transmitted infection which presents the greatest risk of cervical cancer.
“When you’re given a tool to actually prevent a disease, that’s phenomenal and that’s what the HPV vaccine does for us,” said Dr. Arreguin.
Patients ages 9 to 26 receive doses spread out over the course of a half-year. The HPV vaccine became available in 2006 and while great progress has been made to prevent HPV, some 13,000 women in the U.S. are diagnosed each year with cervical cancer. Another 4,000 die from it. So what else besides the vaccine can reduce that tragic number?
“We actually believe very strongly in screening and so we very actively go and try to do screening,” Dr. Arreguin said.
That screening called a PAP smear collects cells from a woman’s cervix to look for any abnormalities. It’s recommended women get screened starting at age 21 and receive a PAP test every three years.
“If there’s a positive test then we don’t want to ignore that. We want to make sure that we’re following up on that aggressively,” Dr. Arreguin added.
Regular screening gives women the best chance at catching cervical cancer early and beating it. Doctors also strongly recommend boys and young men receive the HPV vaccine to help women avoid cervical cancer and prevent men from getting oral HPV infections.