An ounce of prevention

Edition: January 2013 - Vol 21 Number 01
Article#: 4166
Author: Repertoire

With regular screening and follow-up, cervical cancer is one of the easiest female cancers to prevent, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Distributor sales reps can help their physician customers stay prepared by providing them with the right tests.

About the disease

While all women are at risk for cervical cancer, it typically occurs in women over 30 years. In many cases, cervical cancers are caused by human papillomavirus (HPV) – a virus commonly passed from person to person through sexual contact. While about half of sexually active people contract HPV at some point in their life, only a few develop cervical cancer. Still, in the United States alone, about 12,000 women contract the disease each year, says the CDC.

There are a number of risk factors associated with cervical cancer, including the following:

  • Smoking.

  • Having HIV or another condition that may affect the immune system.

  • Using birth control pills for five or more years.

  • Having given birth to three or more children.

Screening and prevention

There are various types of HPV, some of which cause changes on the cervix that eventually lead to cervical cancer. Pap tests are helpful in detecting cell changes on the cervix. As an added precaution, the HPV test screens for the virus responsible for these cell changes. Physicians sometimes rely on the HPV test to supplement the Pap test for female patients who are 30 years or older. It can also be used to provide additional information when women aged 21 or older have unclear Pap test results.

In addition, physicians may recommend their patients – both female and male – receive the HPV vaccine to protect against HPV infection and HPV-related diseases. The vaccines Cervarix and Gardasil have been shown to protect against HPV types 16 and 18 – the types that cause most cervical cancers in women. Gardasil also protects against HPV types 6 and 11 – the types that cause many genital warts in women and men. Both vaccines are available for females, while Gardasil is available for males.

Because the vaccine is said to offer the greatest health benefits to individuals who receive all three doses prior to becoming sexually active, the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommends that boys and girls receive it at 11 or 12 years of age. The HPV vaccine is recommended for all teenage girls and women through age 26 – and for all teen boys and men through age 21 – who did not receive all three doses of the vaccine when they were younger.

By promoting diagnostic screening – and appropriate vaccines – to their customers, sales reps can offer more solutions, better value and a healthy start to 2013.

You can find the cervical cancer screening guidelines/charts at