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Cervical Cancer Awareness

Tiffany Boyd, M.D., FACOG, CHCQM
February 07, 2022
Dr. Tiffany Boyd

Cervical cancer was once one of the leading causes of cancer death for women in the United States. The number of cases of cervical cancer and the number of deaths from cervical cancer have decreased significantly in the last 40 years due to improvements in detection modalities. Despite the improvement in testing, the key still remains - prevention and early detection.

Cervical Cancer can occur at any age; however, it is most prevalent in women over age 30. The Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) has been determined as a major cause of cervical cancer. HPV is a common virus passed from one person to another during sex. At least half of sexually active people will have HPV at some point in their lives. The additional testing for the HPV virus, with a routine pap smear in women over 30, has improved detection of abnormal cells/precancerous cells. Early detection lowers the chances of women progressing to cancer. Other risk factors for cervical cancer include smoking, multiple sexual partners, HIV infection, or any immunocompromising condition. Because of the high transmissibility of the HPV virus, recommendations for vaccination against the virus are in place for both boys and girls beginning at age 11. Vaccination reduces their risk of contracting the strains leading to HPV cancers.

It is crucial for all women 21 years old and older to get screened per the American Society for Colposcopy and Cervical Pathology (ASCCP) guidelines because waiting for symptoms may be too late. Some women do experience irregular bleeding or abnormal discharge; however, the majority of women with abnormal pap smears have no symptoms at all. Early detection is the key to treatment and survival.

I recommend scheduling an appointment with your local health care provider or gynecologist to get your screening done. Prevention and early detection still remain the key to overall survival.

Dr. Tiffany Boyd is a board-certified obstetrics and gynecology provider at MUSC Health Florence Medical Center and is a Fellow of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Please call 843-665-9581 for more information or to schedule an appointment.