Medical Program Assistant | Mental Health Services
Mind the pap: Four steps to prevent cervical cancer
Cervical cancer is preventable for people with a cervix. It’s usually caused by the spread of the human papilloma virus (HPV) through any type of sexual contact including oral, vaginal, or anal sex.
“Ninety-nine percent of the time cervical cancer is caused by a virus that is transmitted only by sexual contact,” says Dr. Mary Landry, a physician in the University Health Services (UHS) Women’s Health clinic.
Landry explains how students can prevent the spread of cervical cancer. “This is a completely preventable cancer with four simple steps: HPV vaccine series, Pap screening starting at 21 [years of age], condoms for prevention of HPV sharing, and colposcopy for diagnosis and treatment of pre-cancer.”
You can protect yourself by following these precautions:
- HPV vaccine: A three-series dosage that protects you from high-risk strands of human papillomavirus (HPV). The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) say the vaccine works extremely well, and that when the quadrivalent dosage was introduced in the United States, HPV decreased by 56 percent in teenage girls.
- Pap screening: A exam for people with a cervix who are 21 years of age or older. UHS offers Pap screenings at no cost for students. Contact a UHS provider for more information on Pap tests.
- Condoms: An effective way to prevent the spread of sexually transmitted infections. Sex Out Loud, a student org located on the third floor of the Student Activity Center, offers students free prophylaxis including condoms (latex-free, too!) and dental damns.
- Treatment: If a Pap screening shows abnormal results your provider will talk to you about a health care plan that is best for you, which might include a colposcopy to examine the cervix for abnormal tissue.
Cervical cancer does not always have symptoms, but some women may experience pain in the pelvis, pain during sexual intercourse, and/or irregular periods. Log in to MyUHS or call 608.265.5600 to schedule an appointment.
Written by Emilie Burditt, UHS Communications Assistant