Cervical Cancer and Latinas

Did you know that Latina women are about one and a half times more likely to die from cervical cancer than white women? It might be because Latinas are not tested as often for cervical cancer as other groups. That is why it is important to see a doctor every one to three years for a pelvic exam and Pap test. The Office of Minority Health says that maybe as many as 80 percent of deaths from cervical cancer could be prevented if found early.

Cervical cancer is a disease where cancer cells are found in the tissues of the cervix. The cervix connects the uterus (where a baby grows) to the vagina (the birth canal). Cancer of the cervix usually grows over a period of time. Even before cancer cells are found on the cervix, cells that are not normal start to appear. If found early enough, the cells can be treated before they turn into cancer. Your doctor finds these cells by doing a Pap test.

Almost all cervical cancers are caused by two types of human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV is a common virus that is spread through sex. Other types of HPV can cause genital warts. Many types of HPV do not cause problems at all. 

There is a new vaccine called Gardasil® that can help prevent the types of HPV viruses that cause most cervical cancers. The vaccine has been approved for girls and women ages 9-26. It is best to get the vaccine before you start having sex. 

About 30 percent of cervical cancers will not be prevented by the vaccine. But there are other ways to help prevent cervical cancer. Below are things you can do to help protect yourself against HPV and cervical cancer. 

  • Don't have sex. The best way to prevent any sexually transmitted infection is to not have vaginal, oral, or anal sex.
  • Be faithful. Having sex with just one partner can also lower your risk. Be faithful to each other. That means that you only have sex with each other and no one else.
  • Use condoms. HPV can occur in both female and male genital areas that are not covered by condoms. However, research has shown that condom use is linked to lower cervical cancer rates. Protect yourself with a condom every time you have vaginal, anal, or oral sex.

Ask your doctor about whether you should schedule a regular pelvic exam and Pap test every one to three years starting at 21 years of age. 

Click on the links below to learn more. 

Sources

Office of Minority Health, Women's Health  http://www.womenshealth.gov/minority/hispanicamerican/cc.cfm   

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention  http://www.cdc.gov/cancer/cervical/   

This information is for education only. It is not medical advice. Please ask your doctor for advice about changes that may affect your health.

 

Reviewed by:

Richard L. Lane MD., Managing Medical Director, KY

Lynette Cooper RN CMCN  Legal Specialist Sr