Health Topics

Cervical Cancer & HPV

Prevention is the key

Cervical Cancer & Human Papillomavirus

Cervical cancer is caused by certain strains of the human papillomavirus (HPV). Cervical cancer is not considered to be hereditary, and for the majority of women who have HPV, the body's defenses are enough to clear the virus. But for women who don’t clear certain types of the virus, cervical cancer can develop later in life.

There are more than 100 types of HPV, and most strains of HPV are relatively harmless. About 30 types can affect the genital area, while some types can cause cervical cancer (for example, HPV Types 16 and 18 cause 70 percent of cervical cancer cases). Other types can cause genital warts. However, all strains of genital HPV can cause abnormal PAP tests.

HPV is easily transmitted. Genital HPV affects both women and men. Anyone who has any kind of sexual activity involving genital contact can get HPV—intercourse isn’t necessary. Many people who have HPV may not show signs or symptoms, so they can pass on the virus without even knowing.

Millions of people currently have HPV. In 2000, approximately 9.2 million young adults, 15 to 24 years of age, had genital HPV. By age 50, 80 percent of women will have had genital HPV.

Treating and Preventing Cervical Cancer

Cervical cancer can be treated. Like most other cancers, cervical cancer can be treated effectively if diagnosed early. Common treatment options include

  • Surgery
  • Chemotherapy

But the most effective way to deal with cervical cancer is to help prevent HPV from causing it.

Talk to your daughter's doctor or healthcare professional. You can help your daughter develop good healthcare habits now by taking her for regular wellness visits. Understanding the importance of wellness visits now may help her maintain regular check-ups as she gets older.

When you are there, ask your daughter's doctor when her first Pap test should be. Since PAP tests were introduced as routine screening (which detect abnormal, pre-cancerous and cancerous cells in the cervix) there has been a dramatic drop in the number of women who lose their lives to cervical cancer.