What a woman should know about sex and cervical cancer

By Betty LaMarr

If you ask me, sex and cancer are on opposite ends of my priority spectrum. If someone asks me what I would rather be given during the next year, it’s a no brainer. Bring on the men and keep off the chemo, right? Well, sure – unless that sex is increasing your risk of cancer. Sound crazy? Think again.

More young women are being diagnosed with cervical cancer than ever before. What many of these women don’t know is that cervical cancer is caused by a sexually transmitted disease called human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV often has no signs or symptoms, and most males carry it completely unaware of the fact that they could be passing a disease on to their partner that could cause infertility, cancer, or death. Many women who have it are also completely unaware until it’s too late. Can you say with 100% certainty you are not infected?

January was National Cervical Cancer Awareness Month, and this article focuses on what a woman should know about the correlation between sex and cervical cancer. Much of my information comes from an interview I conducted with Michele Whitlock, founder of the non-profit Pearl of Wisdom Campaign to Prevent Cervical Cancer in Women and also by visiting her website, pearlofwisdom.us. Michele is a cervical cancer survivor who has dedicated her life to the prevention and cure of cervical cancer.

HPV lives on the skin and is passed along by skin to skin contact and friction (not just by intercourse). Once HPV enters a woman’s body, it can cause devastating effects. In fact, all cases of cervical cancer stem from an initial infection of HPV. And since cervical cancer is the second leading cancer in women worldwide, think twice before you insist it won’t happen to you. According to a report done by Planned Parenthood, at least 80% of women will acquired HPV by the time they are 50. That’s 4 out of 5 women! These women are women you see every day. Women of all ages and races. Rich and poor. Promiscuous women and women who have had one sexual partner their whole lives. So let’s get rid of the judgment that goes along with HPV and cervical cancer. You know what the real difference is between the women who have HPV and those who don’t? Women who don’t get the infection know what it is and how to prevent it. Are you one of those women?

If you aren’t, there are some pretty simple ways to join the club. If you ask me, I would suggest proper vaccination and screening in order to prevent the disease or to catch it in its earliest stages. The vaccine for HPV is most effective for younger women in their teens to early twenties. Some mothers are hesitant to encourage their daughters to get vaccinated against HPV. After all, isn’t this vaccine giving them a green light to go have unprotected sex until they have enough children to fill three episodes of 19 Kids and Counting? Well, I talked to Dr. Joseph Santoso, a gynecological Oncologist with the West Clinic who specializes in HPV, to see what he had to say about the topic. He wanted to remind us that vaccinations are preventative measures, much like the seatbelts we put on when we get in the car every day. Is that seat belt going to cause us to have the impulse to drive into the first unsuspecting car we see? Doubtful. Instead, it is there just in case we have an accident; if we do, we are protected. Protection is key. I wouldn’t turn down a bullet proof vest in a war zone, a bottle of sanitizer at Paris Theatre, and certainly not a vaccination to protect my reproductive health.

If you ask me, do not forget to get your annual Pap smear and HPV test and encourage your friends to do so. It can save lives.

Betty Lamarr is an advocate for women’s issues and concerns. For all questions and comments you may contact her at askbettylamarr@aol.com or whatawomanshouldknow.blogspot.com. She also hosts a talk show that focuses on issues affecting women. The Betty LaMarr Show airs every Wednesday at midnight on Comcast channel 17.

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