10 VITALITY Summer 2023 A little knowledge can go a long way in the fight against cervical cancer. Each of these four facts can help protect you from a cancer that strikes approximately 13,000 women in the U.S. every year. 1 } Human papillomavirus (HPV) is to blame for most cases of cervical cancer. But a vaccine can help prevent this sexually transmitted infection. Experts recommend that most people get vaccinated at age 11 or 12. But if you’re 45 or younger and never had all the necessary HPV shots, ask your doctor about the vaccine. It may still be beneficial. “Both boys and girls can be vaccinated, and it’s really encouraging that in communities with high vaccination rates, we’re starting to see a decrease in cervical cancer,” says D. Shelly Meents, M.D., a board certified obstetrician-gynecologist with the CMH OB‑GYN Clinic. 2 } The HPV vaccine doesn’t replace the need for screening tests. These tests include the HPV test and the Pap test, which are often performed together. The HPV test looks for HPV on a woman’s cervix. The Pap test checks your cervix for abnormal changes that, if not found and treated, can develop into cervical cancer. 3 } The timetable for screening depends on your age and health history. Talk with your doctor about what’s best for you. Most women can safely follow these guidelines from the American Cancer Society: » Screening for cervical cancer should start at age 25. » For women ages 25 to 65, screening is recommended with either a test that combines an HPV test with a Pap test every 5 years or a Pap test alone every 3 years. “Over 25% of women who get cervical cancer are over the age of 65,” Dr. Meents says. “For women who’ve had normal screenings, never had an abnormal Pap smear and are low risk, we can have a conversation with them about discontinuing screening at age 65.” Also, ask your doctor about screening if you’ve had a hysterectomy. The reason for your hysterectomy will determine if you need a test. 4 } Take other steps to lower your risk. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables—women who don’t may be at increased risk of cervical cancer. Limit your number of sexual partners. And don’t light up: Women who smoke are twice as likely to get cervical cancer as those who don’t. Additional sources: American Cancer Society; American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention PREVENTION How to help prevent cervical cancer 4 facts to know When was your last Pap test? If you can’t remember, it may be time for another one. Our OB-GYNs are accepting new patients. Sarah Kallberg, D.O.; Ashley Lane, D.O.; Shelly Meents, M.D.; and Kelly Raney, FNP‑BC, at the CMH OB-GYN Clinic in Bolivar, are experts in obstetrics and gynecological services. Call 417-777-8131 for more information or to make an appointment. TO LEARN MORE FROM DR. MEENTS about the importance of regular Pap tests, watch a video at youtu.be/zBCX2KFmo8w.