Cervical cancer used to be one of the most common causes of cancer death for American women. Thanks to the widespread use of the Pap test, this has dramatically shifted those figures to more early precancerous detections at highly curable stages. The American Cancer Society recommends that women get a Pap test every three years from their primary care doctor.
Cervical cancer is now thought to be caused, in 95 percent of the cases, by a common virus: the human papillomavirus (HPV). In 2006, a vaccine called Gardasil became available that prevents HPV, and thus the leading cause of cervical cancer, thanks in part to researchers from Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. SCCA clinicians suggest that young women (or their parents rather) follow the advice of their family practitioners or pediatricians about whether Gardasil is the right choice for their daughters.
More information is emerging all the time about the role of HPV and cancer, including oral cancers (more on that later). But for now, know that Pap tests are a great idea for cervical cancer screening, along with continuing on a good diet and exercise program, and avoiding smoking to keep yourself as healthy as possible.