Northern Colorado Women's Health
Women's Clinic of Northern Colorado
For Your Health,
The Women’s Clinic will be presenting a series of articles on women’s health over the next year. Each month a new topic will presented.
Want to prevent cervical cancer?
One of your best bets: Get a Pap. In the past 50 years, routine Pap smears have reduced deaths from cervical cancer by 74 percent, according to the American Cancer Society. Pap smears and HPV tests are kinds of cervical cancer screening tests. Women get routine screening to help them avoid identify early signs of cervical cancer. Cervical cancer is the second-most common type of cancer among women worldwide. Ninety – five percent of cervical cancer is caused by a common sexually transmitted infection, human papilloma virus (HPV)
Who needs a Pap?
Every woman who is sexually active—which includes oral, anal, and any genital-on-genital contact—should have regular Pap smears.Women can contract HPV from same-sex partners. You should have a Pap regardless of your sexual orientation. Even if you're not currently sexually active or have never been sexually active, it's still recommended that you get a Pap if you're over age 21.
What is the difference between a Pap smear and an HPV test?
Both tests use a small instrument to collect cervical cells, which are sent to a lab for examination. Your OB/GYN provider will do both tests at the same time, using the same sample. The difference is that the HPV test identifies high-risk viruses, rather than abnormalities.
How often should I have a Pap?
Most doctors advise having a Pap smear every year from 21-30 and current recommendations advise women over 30 may only need a pap with an HPV test once every 3 years. Based on your age, past Pap smears, and risk factors, you may need to have them more frequently. New guidelines have been proposed and these recommendations may change again soon. We will keep you posted.
What Can I Do to Prevent Cervical Cancer?
You can reduce your risk of cervical cancer by getting regular cervical cancer screenings, using condoms correctly and consistently, and talking with your health care provider to find out if you should get the HPV vaccine.
Condoms help reduce the spread of HPV by preventing some (but not all) skin-to-skin contact during sex play. In addition, studies show that consistent condom use can help keep HPV infections from becoming long-term infections. Remember that it's only certain long-term HPV infections that are linked to cancer.
If you smoke, stop. Smoking increases the chance of getting cervical cancer in women with high-risk HPV type.
I have an abnormal pap, does this mean I have cervical cancer?
No, you need to speak with your provider and have your provider explain just what your pap smear results mean.
Does this mean I only need a wellness exam every 3 years?
No, an exam should still be done every year to recognize early signs of other health concerns, to offer screenings that are recommended, and provide recommended health promotional information.
Please meet our Fort Collins Midwives who are here to serve Northern Colorado.
Tina Downes, CNM, received her Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Mesa State College in Grand Junction, Colorado in 2002. She completed her Master of Science, Certified Nurse Midwifery at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, Denver in 2006. She is currently seeking a doctorate in Public Health; Community Health Promotion and Education through Walden University and has specific research interests in adolescent health and empowerment of women through education and support.
Susan Bush, CNM, received her undergraduate degrees in Education and Nursing from Northern Illinois University and the University of Colorado. She completed her Master’s of Midwifery from Philadelphia University. She has been in Colorado since the 1970’s and has practiced as a Certified Nurse Midwife in Northern Colorado for 12 years.