HPV, Not For Me: Preventing Human Papillomavirus & Cervical Cancer

Author: Stacey L. Holman, MD, UMC Women’s Health Center Director, LSU Health New Orleans Assistant Professor & Clinical OB/GYN

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As the new year begins, many women reflect on personal wellness and ways to get (and stay) healthy for the year to come. January is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month, and this presents an opportunity to promote prevention of the human papillomavirus (HPV) and cervical cancer.

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HPV is a common infection that spreads via sexual activity and is the cause of nearly all cases of cervical cancer.

Approximately 12,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer each year in the United States. It is the 3rd leading cause of death among gynecologic cancers in the US. While this number is declining, cervical cancer is still considered a preventable cancer and vaccination for HPV is a key part of prevention.

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What are risk factors for cervical cancer?

  • Tobacco Use
  • HIV Disease
  • High-Risk Sexual Activity, Early Onset of Sexual activity
  • History of Sexually Transmitted Infection

The Gardasil vaccine is available in the outpatient setting for HPV prevention.

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Here’s what you need to know:

  • The vaccine is available for females ages 9-26.
  • It covers 9 HPV types and those types are responsible for 90% of cervical cancers.
  • Administration of the vaccine ideally begins between age 11-12 and prior to a young woman’s first encounter of sexual activity.
  • The vaccine series is available at pediatrician offices for those under the age of 15 and in the Women’s Health Clinic at UMCNO for those 15 and older.

In addition, visiting with a physician on a regular basis to discuss cervical cancer screening with the Pap test is important for prevention of disease.

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Some additional tips for cervical awareness and health include:

  • Women should see a provider yearly for a well-woman visit. This is an opportunity to review a wellness plan, discuss sexual health, and determine optimal timing for cervical cancer screening with the Pap test.  The Pap test is recommended for ages 21-65 but a schedule for screening is individualized to each patient depending on age and medical history.
  • Young patients (under age 21) should also see a provider yearly for a wellness visit. They should receive counseling on sexual health and protection against sexually transmitted infections including HPV.

For a list of the Top 10 Things to Know About HPV and Cervical Cancer, click here.

For other facts about Cervical Cancer, click here.

 

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Think happy, but most importantly, think healthy this 2018.

 

 

About Dr. Holman

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Stacey L. Holman, MD, is a three-time graduate of LSU — She attended undergraduate in Baton Rouge, the School of Medicine in New Orleans and then completed residency in the same system. Dr. Holman is the Associate Residency Program Director for the Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology at LSU Health in New Orleans. Dr. Holman also serves as the Ambulatory Services Director and Quality Improvement champion for the department.

She holds the position of Women’s Health Center Director at University Medical Center New Orleans. In this role, she is responsible for leadership in the areas of quality improvement and clinical operations.

Dr. Holman is a Fellow of American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology and has served in several leadership roles within District VII.

Her clinical interests include adolescent pregnancy, cervical dysplasia, well-woman and preconception health.

She is a long time New Orleans resident along with her husband and their two young children, Ethan and Emma.

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