DOTHAN, Ala - Cervical cancer is the third most common type of cancer in women worldwide and is many times caused by the Human Papillomavirus (HPV). Dr. Kenneth Farmer, an OBGYN at Women’s Medical Center in Dothan says “It's difficult to tell whether you've got cervical cancer, especially early on, because there may not be any symptoms at all.
Unfortunately, every woman is at risk for cervical cancer. There are genetic predispositions that will increase that risk, but nearly all cervical cancers ultimately come from the sexually transmitted Human Papillomavirus. Farmer states that “it is impossible to look at your partner and actually tell that this partner is someone that will not give me the Human Papillomavirus and this one is.”
Alison Lancaster was diagnosed with a rare form of cervical cancer two years ago which was not related to the HPV virus and says she hopes her story will encourage women to get their annual exams. She explains that she “had a radical hysterectomy and they removed my ovaries also and then they found out that I had this rare aggressive type which is called Glassy Cell Carcinoma then that's when they recommended that I do eight weeks of radiation and chemo concurrently.”
Vaccines are currently available to help protect both males and females against some of the most common types of HPV. The vaccines are given in three doses over six months to boys and girls as young 9 years old. Farmer says that “most Human Papillomaviruses will clear on their own, the problem is we don't actually know which ones will clear on their own.”
That's why it's important to have regular Pap smears so that doctors can identify if you have HPV and then follow it until it either clears on its own or take the necessary steps to treat the infection before it becomes cervical cancer.