Cervical Health Awareness Month
January has been designated Cervical Health Awareness Month in the United States and even though this topic isn’t really about hormones I wanted to share some cervix-y things with you for a few reasons:
- I am amazed at the number of readers that come to my site in search of information about their cervix.
- Guidelines for PAP smears have recently been changed – no longer are annual PAPs being recommended for every age group nor every year (see below).
- The HPV Vaccine is being offered as protection against some cervical cancers. Where I live the HPV vaccine is given to all Grade 7 girls and you guessed it my daughter is in grade 7 this year which is the big reason I got into researching the vaccine. Vaccination is such a personal decision and there are many people who sit on either side of the fence with very passionate views. I’ve spoken with mom’s who don’t know much about the vaccine but let their daughters get the vaccine because it’s offered. And it’s free if you get it at school. I was actually “warned” that if I didn’t give it to my daughter at school then I would have to pay for it out of my own pocket.
Here’s what I discovered during my research:
- The guidelines for PAP smears in US, Canada & the UK have been changed. (I mention these countries because it is where the majority of my readers originate). Here are the new recommendations according to the Canadian Task Force on Preventative Health Care:
- For women aged <20 we recommend not routinely screening for cervical cancer. (Strong recommendation; high quality evidence)
- For women aged 20 to 24 we recommend not routinely screening for cervical cancer. (Weak recommendation; moderate quality evidence)
- For women aged 25 to 29 we recommend routine screening for cervical cancer every 3 years. (Weak recommendation; moderate quality evidence)
- For women aged 30 to 69 we recommend routine screening for cervical cancer every 3 years. (Strong recommendation; high quality evidence)
- For women aged ≥70 who have been adequately screened (i.e. 3 successive negative Pap tests in the last 10 years), we recommend that routine screening may cease. For women aged 70 or over who have not been adequately screened we recommend continued screening until 3 negative test results have been obtained. (Weak recommendation; low quality evidence)
- Cervical cancer is preventable yet sadly women are still dying from it. The most important thing to do is get your PAP smear because cervical cancer is typically very slow developing.
- There are vaccines available for HPV of which two strains (#16 & #18) have been implicated in some cervical cancers.
- The woman who lead the team that developed the vaccine, Dr. Diane Harper, has spoken out against giving it to young girls for a number of reasons, one of which is that it’s efficacy was never tested on young developing girls under a certain age. Read about that here: CBS News – Researcher Speaks Out
- HPV DNA fragments have been found in vials of Gardasil vaccine which came to light during an autopsy into the sudden, unexpected death of a teenager. The vaccine has been marketed as containing “no viral DNA”. The FDA later came out and said DNA fragments are “expected” – you can read about that here. In response, SaneVax Inc.’s article questions the FDA’s “Key Facts” & considers whether the public is being betrayed. SaneVax Inc is an organization that calls for safe, affordable, effective & necessary vaccines & practises.
- One of my favorite websites about women’s health Women to Women is taking a “cautious approach” to the vaccine which you can read about here. I respect these female doctors and practitioners on this website so much. They take a whole person approach to women’s health and provide so much valuable information on their website.
- You can still get cervical cancer even if you’ve been vaccinated.
- The vaccine’s efficacy is approximately 5 years – women were followed in the early studies for 6.4 years. Here’s some more info about whether or not there is evidence showing a booster is required to ensure long term protection.
- Women vaccinated still need to go for PAP smears, some experts believe that those who receive the vaccine will opt out of PAP smears which are crucial for early detection.
- Even if abnormal cervical cells are found on a PAP they can be treated when caught early with colposcopy, cryotherapy, and LEEP procedures to help prevent cervical cancer.
- Invasive cervical cancer is a relatively uncommon disease in Canada due to the widespread use of screening and the diagnosis and treatment of pre-cancerous lesions. In 2006, 1,400 Canadian women were diagnosed with invasive cervical cancer; 380 women died from the disease. Invasive cervical cancer incidence has declined from 15.4 per 100,000 in 1977 to 8.0 per 100,000 in 2006, while invasive cervical cancer mortality has declined from
4.8 per 100,000 in 1977 to 2.0 per 100,000 in 2006. (Information taken from the report “Cervical Cancer Screening in Canada – Monitoring Program Performance 2006-2008”) Read the report here: Partnership Against Cancer. There are no stats that mention if those 2/100,000 had cervical cancer related to the strains #16 or #18.
- The Canadian Women’s Health Network and Canadian Cancer Society lists many factors which increase the likelihood of cervical cancer developing (this is a combined list):
- poor nutrition and a diet low in vitamins A, folate (a B vitamin) and C, & stress
- not using condoms or other barrier methods of birth control
- having another sexually transmitted infection like chlamydia
- not having regular Pap tests (a test used to detect both dysplasia and cervical cancer)
- becoming sexually active at a young age
- having many sexual partners or a sexual partner who has had many partners
- having a weakened immune system (for example, from taking drugs after an organ transplant or having a disease such as AIDS)
- using birth control pills for a long time
- giving birth to many children
- having taken diethylstilbestrol (DES) or being the daughter of a mother who took DES (a form of estrogen that was used between 1940 and 1971 to treat women with certain problems during pregnancy, such as miscarriages)
- some women develop cervical cancer without any of these risk factors.
In celebration of your cervix – take time to learn the best ways to keep it healthy.
Be sure to check out the Felt Cervix Project – an art project of knitted cervices to highlight the importance of cervical health. The website has a free pattern for anyone who wants to contribute to the project – consider knitting one and sending it in to be included in the sculpture. Each cervix gets a unique serial number. I love the activism and creativity Sonya Phillip is bringing to Cervical Health with her Felt Cervix Project! Look at the little knitted cervices in the photo above – who knew a cervix could be that adorable?
To learn more about your cervix – see photos of real cervices throughout the life span visit Beautiful Cervix Project.
Read my blog post Get to Know Your Cervix!
Would love to hear your thoughts: