JOINT BASE ANDREWS, Md. --
Cervical Cancer Awareness month is recognized each January. In the United States, over 12,000 women will be diagnosed with cervical cancer this year, leading to just over 4,000 deaths. According to the National Cancer Institute, Human Papilloma Virus accounts for almost all cervical cancer cases. The best way to detect HPV influence affecting the cervix is by routine Pap (Papanicolaou) smear screening.
During a Pap smear screening, the vaginal and cervical region are evaluated and samples are obtained from the visible part of the cervix.
“Pap screening can be a dreaded experience, but it offers early detection of cervical abnormalities before cancer even occurs,” said Capt. Corey Teagarden, 11th Medical Operations Squadron, women’s health physician.
Women should be screened every three years, beginning at age 21. At age 30 and older, women with a normal history can be screened with Pap smear and HPV testing every five years.
Although there is no medication to treat HPV, an excellent way to prevent it and the potential risk of cancer is to obtain the GARDASIL®9 vaccination. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports a prevention of 53,000 cervical cancer cases if females are vaccinated by age 12.
“The GARDASIL®9 vaccination provides immunity against nine viral types that affect the cervical and genital region, and also protects against anal and oral abnormalities,” said Maj. Lisa Nicholson, 11th Medical Operations Squadron, women’s health medical director. “The HPV vaccination also has significant health benefits for men, as well.”
It is recommended that both males and females begin the vaccine by age 12 to 13, but it can be administered as young as age 11 through age 26. This is a 3-injection vaccination series, but when completed prior to age 15, only two injections are required. The GARDASIL®9 vaccine is offered at the 11th Medical Group Immunization Clinic from 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.
The 11th Medical Group Family Practice, Internal Medicine, and Flight Medicine Clinics have contacted women who are overdue for their Pap smear screenings. If you are unsure when your next Pap smear screening is due, you may contact your PCM using secure messaging or leave a telephone message.
If you are due and have not been contacted, you may make a screening appointment with your PCM or with the Family Health Gynecology Clinic (no referral required) by contacting the appointment line at 888-999-1212 or booking through TRICARE Online at https://tricare.mil/FindDoctor/Appointments/OnlineAppointing.
For additional information on cervical cancer and HPV, visit the following sites:
National Health Institute at https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/infectious-agents/hpv-fact-sheet
American Cancer Society at https://www.cancer.org/cancer/cervical-cancer.html
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/cervical/statistics/index.htm
GARDASIL®9 at https://www.gardasil9.com/.