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Preventing cervical cancer

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The American Cancer Society estimates that 12,360 new cases of cervical cancer will be diagnosed within the United States in 2014.

Fortunately, with the development and utilization of pap smears as an effective screening method for the disease, cervical cancer has become a highly preventable disease.

It is recommended for women to begin getting pap smears at age 21 (or when they become sexually active) and keep receiving them every three years until the age of 30.

After 30 years of age, women should get screened every five years, unless they have had a history of cervical health problems or other medical issues, which should be discussed with their physician.

After the age of 65, it is okay for women to stop getting screened, unless they have had any serious pre-cancers found in the last 20 years or they are still sexually active with new partners. Almost all cervical cancer cases are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV).

Therefore, another effective method of preventing the disease is to receive the HPV vaccine.

The vaccine is most effective when given before an individual becomes sexually active.

The optimal age for females and males to receive the HPV vaccine is between eleven to twelve years, and is safe for individuals as young as nine.

Cone Health Cancer Center understands the importance of screening to prevent and/or detect cervical cancer early.

Therefore, the network regularly offers free cervical cancer screenings to individuals throughout the community who cannot afford to see their physician. Cone Health Cancer Center also holds a monthly GYN Care Group, which is a support group for women who are or have been in treatment for gynecological cancer.

To find out more about the screenings and support group, visit

Spokesperson Background:
Melissa Cross is a nurse practitioner for the Gynecological Oncology Program at Cone Health Cancer Center.

Cross received a Bachelor of Science in nursing in 2006 and a Master of Science in adult and geriatric nursing in 2012, both from UNCG.

She also sees patients in Cone Health Cancer Center’s survivor’s clinic and provides clinical direction to the GYN Care Group, a support group for women with gynecological cancers that is unique in our region and valued by the women who participate.