Stillwater News Press

Health & Environment

January 28, 2010

Annual check ups key to beating cervical cancer

STILLWATER, Okla. — Misty Vaverka of Stillwater was diagnosed with cervical cancer four years ago.

She had no symptoms or history of cancer, but does have the human papilloma virus.

A routine Pap smear test produced abnormal results.

After being diagnosed, she cried for days and was angry, she said. She didn’t tell anyone, including her mother, for two months.

Then, she said, something clicked, and she decided she needed to educate herself as much as possible about cervical cancer and HPV.

“A lot of girls don’t think it’s important. I had never heard of HPV, and I think a lot of women do not understand about the vaccination,” Vaverka said.

She ended up having a radical hysterectomy with no chemotherapy about three months after the birth of her second child.

Vaverka’s support system of friends, family and doctors helped her through this difficult time.

Those diagnosed with cervical cancer are not considered cancer-free until five years pass with no incident. Vaverka said she looks forward to being added to the “five-year board” at University of Oklahoma Medical Center in 2011.

“That’s my goal,” she said. “... There’s hope. I think a lot of people, when they hear the word cancer, think there’s nothing left, but if you look for information, there’s a lot of help out there.”

January is National Cervical Cancer Awareness Month and making sure to get annual gynecological check-ups and becoming informed about the human papillomavirus are women’s best bets on staying healthy.

The human papillomavirus is a common sexually transmitted disease that has numerous different types. At least 50 percent of sexually active people get it at some point in their life, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

One of these types can cause cervical cancer, and almost all cervical cancers are caused by the human papillomavirus.

Stillwater gynecologist Dr. Yasuto Taguchi considers cervical cancer to be a big problem in the area due to the fact that Stillwater is a college town and has a large, young, sexually active population.

Since the virus typically has no symptoms, women need to make sure to get their annual Pap smear, Taguchi said. If a Pap smear comes back abnormal, more testing needs to be done to make sure cervical cancer does not develop.

Gardasil and Cervarix are the only vaccines currently offered for treatment of the virus.

While Taguchi said sexual behavior plays a factor, he recommends anyone who comes into his office to receive the vaccine.

Practicing safe sex by knowing your partner and using condoms is important, but they don’t prevent 100 percent against the virus, Oklahoma State University health educator Kacey Luker said.

An early diagnosis and treatment of cervical cancer is key to survival, Taguchi said. If the cancer is allowed to progress to a higher stage, it becomes more difficult to treat.

Whether they are sexually active or not, Pap smears are recommended for women 21 years or older.

The vaccination, first out in 2006, changed the way the medical field handles it, he said. It’s a preventative action against the virus as opposed to waiting to be diagnosed with the virus and then treating it.

“We try to get patients to get the vaccination at the beginning,” Taguchi said.

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