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Cervical cancer prevention starts as early as age nine

January is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month.

Cervical cancer is a disease in which cancer cells arise in the cervix, which connects the uterus to the vagina.

There are steps you can take for girls as young as nine to prevent cervical cancer later in life.

Cervical cancer was once the leading cause of cancer death for women in the U.S., but incidents have greatly reduced due to screening and prevention.

10 News spoke to Dr. Heather Greer, an OBGYN in Daleville about prevention.

While there are risk factors that make cervical cancer more likely in some women like smoking, almost all cases of the disease are caused by human papillomavirus (HPV) infection which is sexually transmitted. Not all women with HPV infection, however, will develop cervical cancer. Women who do not regularly have tests to detect HPV or abnormal cells in the cervix are at increased risk of cervical cancer, according to the American Association for Cancer Research.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved three vaccines – Gardasil, Gardasil 9 and Cervarix – that prevent infection with certain subtypes of HPV including 16 and 18, two high-risk HPVs that cause some 70 percent of cervical cancers.

Gardasil 9 can be given to children as young as nine to prevent cervical cancer.

Dr. Greer recommends the vaccine.

“We know that patients are going to have a great, and robust response if they have never been exposed to the virus itself. So we want to catch them before they have been exposed to HPV. So that is why we want to initiate at a young age,” Dr. Greer said.

In addition to the vaccine, she stressed the importance of routine pap smears. The vast majority of cervical cancers could be prevented with pap tests and HPV vaccination.

Women should start getting pap smears at the age of 21. The frequency of the tests varies between every three to five years depending on the patient’s risk factors.

Greer said a doctor can make the best recommendation for each patient.

Source: WSLS News 10

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