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      HPV on the rise: Don't forget your checkups

      Updated January 26, 2011 5:15 p.m. Ladies, have you scheduled an appointment for 2011?

      When it comes to cervical cancer, the HPV virus, or Human papillomavirus, is the biggest risk factor.

      About 50 percent of sexually active women will get it at some point in their life. The danger is, you probably won't know it unless it causes a bigger problem, like cervical cancer. That's why doctors say it's so important for women to have annual check-ups.

      We talked to a local OB/GYN to find out everything you need to know about the virus.

      "I think it's important that they realize it's out there and that they can acquire it," said Dr. Peter Dureska, an OB/GYN at Quincy Medical Group.

      The leading cause of cervical cancer

      This virus is one of the leading causes of cervical cancer. Just one strain of HPV causes 70 percent of cervical cancers across the country.

      For girls between ages 9 and 26 who are not sexually active, Dr. Dureska has this advice:

      Get Vaccinated

      "If you really want to prevent cervical cancer, you need to get vaccinated. And we have the Gardasil vaccine and the Cervarix."/"It virtually gives 100 percent protection against those four subtypes," said Dureska.

      For sexually-active women and girls, about three to four percent of pap tests come back with HPV.

      Treatment

      "But the majority require no treatment. They may need some closer follow-ups and more frequent paps, but most of the time in younger women in the 20's, they're going to resolve the infection and get rid of it," said Dureska.

      Ninety percent of these infections go away on their own. That is not as likely for older women or those who smoke, which means all women should get tested.

      "Again, the number of women who'll actually have to be treated are low. Cervical cancer isn't the disease it used to be 20-40 years ago. I can tell you that 50-percent of cancers are with women who've never had a pap test. And 10-percent occur if you let your paps lapse five years or more," said Dureska.

      If your pap test does come back abnormal, doctors can perform a simple and quick procedure called a colposcopy, where they'll take a biopsy of the abnormal area. From there, you may be required to come back every six months for a check up until it's gone.

      Getting HPV more than once?

      "Can you acquire HPV more than once from the same person? If you're in a stable relationship, where neither of you are going out and about with other people, No. You won't bounce the same strain back and forth."

      Men and HPV

      While more women contract HPV, it's still an issue men need to be aware of.

      "Penile cancer is associated with HPV, but the rates are extremely low," said Dureska.

      Cervical Cancer stats

      "Even early stages of invasive cervical cancer can be treated. Depending on the age of the women, the survival rate is over 90-percent. But once it's in the lymph nodes, it goes down to more than 50-percent," said Dureska.

      Where to go to get tested

      There are programs for women who can't afford annual pap tests.

      We did some checking, and we know the Adams County Health Department no longer offers that program due to budget cuts. The Hancock County Health Department does offer that program. Check with your local health department if you need a check-up and can't pay for it.

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      This year, nearly 600 women in Illinois will be diagnosed with cervical cancer and a projected 180 will die. It's a number that's had nearly 18,000 women getting cervical cancer screenings this past year through a state program for the uninsured.

      To mark Cervical Cancer Awareness Month, health officials want to remind women how important it is to get their annual checkups.

      According to Blessing's Cancer Center, doctors diagnose about 12,200 new cases of cervical cancer each year. Unfortunately, about 4,210 of those cases turn fatal.

      This week, KHQA's Brooke Hasch will talk to area doctors to see how our local statistics fare with the rest of the country.

      Update: We have learned that women wanting an annual exam can no longer go through the Adams County Health Department due to budget cuts. The Hancock County Health Department has taken over those procedures.

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      The Illinois Department of Public Health has scheduled a webinar about a virus linked to cervical cancer.

      HPV, or human papillomavirus, causes about 70 percent of cervical cancer. HPV vaccines for girls and young women can prevent the disease, but are most effective when used before the start of sexual activity.

      The webinar is scheduled Thursday from 11 a.m. until noon.

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      According to Fox News, the first cancer screening test ever developed was the Pap smear, used to detect cells suspicious for cervical cancer. Since women began getting regular screenings in the 1960s, cervical cancer has declined by close to 70 percent.

      All women 21 and older -- or sooner if sexually active -- should have a Pap smear done every year. Recent changes in guidelines have suggested that this may not be necessary if a woman's last two Pap smears have been regular, but it's better to be safe than sorry, so you should talk to your doctor about what's best for you.

      We now know cervical cancer is caused by the sexually transmitted HPV virus, and recently, an HPV vaccine has been developed. It is recommended for women under age 26, but again, talk to your doctor before you make any decisions regarding your health.

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