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HPV and Cervical Cancer Myths

  • MYTH: If you have HPV, you will get cervical cancer. Although HPV is very common in the United States, cervical cancer is not. The virus usually is suppressed by the body or goes away on its own in a few months without causing any problems. In fact, studies show that 70 percent of new HPV infections in young women disappear within one year, and as many as 91 percent disappear within two years. However, it's important not to be complacent. Persistent infections - more commonly found in women 30 or older - can lead to cervical cancer if pre-cancerous cell changes caused by HPV are not detected and treated early. In fact, it is estimated that women who have persistent HPV infections are more than 200 times more likely to develop cervical disease than those who do not. Worldwide, cervical cancer remains the number two cause of cancer deaths in women.
  • MYTH: Women don't need to do anything special to make sure they are tested for HPV when they get their Pap. If they can benefit from the test, their healthcare providers will automatically recommend it. Some healthcare providers are not yet aware that the HPV test has been approved by the FDA for routine cervical cancer screening in women 30 and older. And even those who are aware may not offer the test out of fear that women will be needlessly alarmed if the test shows they carry the virus. Others are concerned that because screening is needed less frequently in women who test negative for HPV and have normal Pap smears, women will not return for their annual visit and put themselves at risk for other health issues. Women need to make their desire for the HPV test known - ideally by alerting the office staff before appearing for their appointment.
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     Cervical cancer is preventable in most cases, making it one of the first potential "wins" in the battle against cancer. 

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