Prevent Cervical Cancer with Annual Test and Vaccine
By: Kristin Shives
TRICARE Management Activity
January is Cervical Cancer Awareness month, and beneficiaries need to know that every woman is at risk. Approximately 12,000 women in the United States are diagnosed with cervical cancer every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). However, cervical cancer is a highly preventable gynecologic cancer, according to CDC.
Cervical cancer can be prevented when TRICARE beneficiaries get regular screening tests and follow-ups. It’s highly curable when detected and treated at an early stage. Cervical cancer usually doesn’t show signs or symptoms in the early stages. But as the cancer advances, some women may notice abnormal bleeding or discharge following intercourse. If these signs are present, it’s important for a woman to visit her doctor.
Most cervical cancers are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV) according to CDC. HPV is a common virus than can be passed from one person to another during sex.. There are numerous types of HPV, but certain types can cause changes in the cervix that may lead to cervical cancer.
There are other risks factors associated with cervical cancer besides HPV. In addition to having HPV, CDC says the following risk factors are associated with cervical cancer:
- Having HIV (the virus that causes AIDS) or another condition that makes it hard for the body to fight off health problems
- Using birth control pills for a long time (five or more years)
- Giving birth to three or more children
TRICARE covers both early detection and prevention of cervical cancer: the Pap test and the HPV vaccine. To get information on TRICARE coverage for Pap test and HPV vaccines visit www.tricare.mil/coveredservices.
A Pap test identifies pre-cancerous changes on the cervix. It can also find cervical cancer early. The CDC recommends regular Pap tests for women aged 21-65. TRICARE covers two HPV vaccines, Gardasil and Cervarix, to protect against the types of HPV that can cause cervical cancer. HPV vaccines are given in a series of three shots. The CDC recommends the series begin between the ages of 11 and 12 for females. Females who did not receive the vaccine at the recommended age can still get the vaccine up until the age of 26.
To learn more about cervical cancer facts, symptoms and preventive measures go to www.cdc.gov/cancer/cervical/index.htm. TRICARE makes healthy living the easy choice, learn more at www.tricare.mil/livewell.