Cervical Cancer and HPV

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Had sex? Then you may have HPV. This virus affects 50 percent of sexually active adults in this country, is transmitted through sex and increases an African–American woman’s risk of developing cervical cancer. Other factors that contribute to cervical cancer, the fifth most common cancer in African–American women, include: sex at an early age, multiple partners, sex without a condom and smoking.

A Pap smear can detect cervical cancer in its early stages, when it is most treatable, so all Black women — including those who have had hysterectomies — should have annual Pap smears beginning at age 18 or after the first time they have sex, whichever comes first.

Early clinical trials of a vaccine for cervical cancer have shown that it is 100% effective. It also protects against genital warts. The vaccine works by triggering the body’s immune system to attack the human papiloma virus (HPV), which has been linked to almost all cases of cervical cancer. The vaccine would be given to teenage girls. It would only work in females who have not yet become sexually active. This is because HPV is transmitted through sexual intercourse. The vaccines will likely be available within a couple of years.

For those women not eligible for the vaccine, there are other ways to protect against cervical cancer. In addition to the yearly Pap, you should practice safer sex, limit your number of sexual partners or establish a monogamous relationship.

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