Cervical Cancer Prevention continued...
Avoidance of HPV infection is becoming increasingly important in the prevention of precancerous and cancerous changes of the cervix. Prevention measures include:
- Abstinence from sex is recommended as one way to prevent the transmission of HPV.
- Likewise, barrier protection, such as condom use, may prevent HPV infection, although this has not yet been fully studied.
- Two vaccines to protect women from cervical cancer are now available. Gardasil is approved for use in males and females ages 9 to 26. It protects against two strains of HPV (types 16 and 18) that account for the development of 70% of cervical cancers and over 50% of precancerous lesions of the cervix, vulva, and vagina. Gardasil may protect against the types of HPV (6 and 11) which are associated with over 90% of the cases of genital warts. A second vaccine, Cervarix, also targets HPV types 16 and 18. It is approved for use in females ages 9 to 25.
Cigarette smoking is another risk factor for cervical cancer that can be prevented. Quitting smoking may decrease your chances of developing the disease.
Outlook for Cervical Cancer
For cervical cancer, the survival rate is close to 100% when precancerous or early cancerous changes are found and treated. The prognosis for invasive cervical cancer depends on the stage of the cancer when it is found.
The stage of a cancer is a measure of how far it has progressed, namely, what other organs or tissues have been invaded.
- For the earliest stage of cervical cancer -- stage I -- more than 90% of women survive at least five years after diagnosis.
- Stage II cervical cancer patients have a five-year survival rate of 76%.
- The five-year survival rate for women with stage III cervical cancer is anywhere from 50% to 62%.
- Twenty percent or fewer of women with stage IV cervical cancer survive five years.
Health care providers who treat cancer often use the term "remission" rather than "cure." Although many women with cervical cancer recover completely, medical professionals sometimes avoid the word "cure," because the disease can recur.
Support Groups and Counseling for Cervical Cancer
Living with cervical cancer presents many new challenges for you and for your family and friends.
- You will probably have many worries about how the cancer will affect you and your ability to "live a normal life," that is, to care for your family and home, to hold your job, and to continuing the friendships and activities you enjoy.
- Many people feel anxious and depressed. Some people feel angry and resentful; others feel helpless and defeated.
For most people with cancer, talking about their feelings and concerns can help.
- Your friends and family members can be very supportive. They may be hesitant to offer support until they see how you are coping. Don't wait for them to bring it up. If you want to talk about your concerns, let them know.
- Some people don't want to "burden" their loved ones, or they prefer talking about their concerns with a more neutral professional. A social worker, counselor, or member of the clergy can be helpful if you want to discuss your feelings and concerns about having cancer. Your gynecologist or oncologist should be able to recommend someone.
- Many people with cancer are helped profoundly by talking to other people who have cancer. Sharing your concerns with others who have been through the same thing can be remarkably reassuring. Support groups of people with cancer may be available through the medical center where you are receiving your treatment. The American Cancer Society also has information about support groups all over the U.S.