Cervical Cancer: Prevention Tips and Newest Treatment
At OHC, our goal is to make sure you have access to the latest treatments, information, and support services to strengthen your fight against cancer. Since January is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month, we want to update you regarding a new treatment for cervical cancer that you may not be aware of and remind you how to best prevent this disease.
Cervical cancer used to be the leading cause of cancer death for women in the United States. However, in the past 40 years, the number of cases of and deaths from cervical cancer have decreased significantly. This is largely the result of many women getting regular Pap tests and the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine.
The most important thing women can do to help prevent cervical cancer is to have regular screening tests, called a Pap test or Pap smear, starting at age 21. If your Pap test results are normal, your chance of getting cervical cancer in the next few years is very low.
If you are 30 years old or older, you may choose to have an HPV screening test along with the Pap test. If both test results are normal, your doctor may say you can wait five years to have your next Pap test. The most important step is to discuss with your doctor what is the best schedule for you.
For women aged 21 – 65, it’s important to continue getting a Pap test as directed by your doctor – even if you think you are too old to have a child or are not having sex anymore.
The HPV vaccine protects against the types of HPV that most often cause cervical, vaginal, and vulvar cancers. OHC recommends the vaccine for preteen boys and girls, aged 11 – 12 years, but can be given as early as age 9 and until age 26. The vaccine is given in a series of either two or three shots, depending on age.
New FDA-Approved Treatment
At OHC, we’re always at the forefront of the latest approaches to cancer treatments. That’s why we were excited when the FDA had granted an accelerated approval for the immune checkpoint inhibitor pembrolizumab (Keytruda) for women with recurring or metastasized cervical cancer. This made pembrolizumab the first immune checkpoint inhibitor approved to treat cervical cancer and provided us with another option for our patients with advanced cervical cancer.
An immune checkpoint inhibitor is a drug that helps the body’s immune system recognize and attack cancer cells. These drugs have been successful in recent years in patients with metastatic melanoma and Hodgkin lymphoma, and they’re showing promise in clinical trials involving other types of cancer. OHC played a significant role in the first FDA approval of pembrolizumab for blood and lung cancers through its involvement in clinical trials.
There haven’t been any new treatments for advanced cervical cancer until now, which is why the approval of Keytruda is exciting. Now we have another, promising tool to support our patients in their fight against cancer.
Marcia C. Bowling, MD, is board certified in obstetrics and gynecology, and one of the first in the world to gain extensive experience using robot-assisted surgery. After graduating from medical school at the University of Massachusetts, she completed a residency at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center and then a fellowship at Massachusetts General Hospital. OHC is the region’s leading experts in the treatment of nearly every form of adult cancer and complex blood disorder. We provide the latest medical, gynecologic and radiation treatments, plus access to clinical trials and a variety support services to strengthen your fight against cancer. Our approach to cancer care is simple – to surround you with everything you need so you can focus on what matters most: beating cancer.
Sources: OHC, National Cancer Institute, Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute