DID YOU KNOW?
Myth: Cervical cancer cannot be prevented.
Fact: A Pap test can find abnormal cells on your cervix before they become cancer. If these changes are found and treated early, cervical cancer can be prevented. Most cervical cancers are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). There is a vaccine that protects against 2 types of HPV that cause most cervical cancers.
Myth:The cause of cervical cancer is unknown.
Fact: Most cervical cancers are caused by a common virus called HPV which is easily spread through sexual contact, including intimate touching, oral, vaginal and anal sex. 3 out of 4 sexually active people will get HPV at some point in their lives- often without knowing it.
Myth:If you have HPV, you will develop cervical cancer.
Fact:There are more than 100 types of HPV- some types are high risk for cervical cancer, while others are high risk for genital warts. HPV types 16 and 18 cause 70% of cancers of the cervix. Usually, the body’s immune system clears the virus by itself within 2 years. However, for some women the HPV does not clear from the body and over time, it can cause abnormal cell changes in the cervix that you cannot see or feel. These abnormal cells can develop into cervical cancer if they are not found and treated early enough.
Myth: Mostly promiscuous women get cervical cancer.
Fact: Women who have had only 1 partner can develop cervical cancer. No one can pinpoint exactly why 1 woman may develop cervical cancer and another may not.
Myth: All women need an annual Pap test to screen for cervical cancer.
Fact: Women should start having Pap tests at age 21 or 3 years after first sexual contact. Start with a Pap test every year for the first 3 years; then continue every 2 years if your results are normal.
Myth: Older women don’t need Pap tests.
Fact: Screening may be stopped after age 69 if you have had normal Pap test results in the past and no history of biopsy confirmed significant abnormalities. If you are unsure of when you should stop getting regular Pap tests, talk to your primary care provider.
Myth: Women who have received the HPV vaccine don’t need Pap tests.
Fact: Regular Pap tests are still necessary for women who have had the HPV vaccine. The vaccine is intended to protect against certain HPV strains. The vaccine protects against 2 high risk HPV strains known to cause cervical cancer in women, however there are other strains associated with cervical cancer and the vaccine will not protect you against these strains.
You should still get regular Pap tests if;
- You’ve had the HPV vaccine
- You’ve had only 1 sexual partner
- You’ve been with your partner for a while
- You’ve been through menopause
- You’re no longer having sex
- You’re in a same-sex relationship
Myth:Pap tests screen for all gynecologic cancers.
Fact:The only cancer Pap tests screen for is cervical cancer. The Pap test does not screen for other gynecologic cancers such as ovarian cancer and fallopian cancer. Contact your primary care provider if you have questions about gynecologic cancers not screened by the Pap test.