Dr. Luis Rojas shows us abnormal cells on a cervix.
Last year during his state of the state address, Governor Mike Rounds promised more than a million dollars to vaccinate girls against the human papilloma virus. It's a sexually transmitted disease that causes cervical cancer in women but if caught early can be curable. January is Cervical Cancer Screening month and Cervical Health Awareness Month.
The cervix is located at the base of the uterus and cervical cancer is basically the change of the cells on the cervix. Dr. Luis Rojas specializes in gynecologic oncology at the Avera Cancer Institute.
He says, "Now a days we know by evidence and science that cervical cancer is one of the few cancers that has a virus as a cause. Human papilloma virus is what causes it.
HPV is sexually transmitted and invades the cells and if not caught early through a pap smear, the cancer can spread throughout the body. The prognosis is very good if it's caught early. There is also a vaccine (Gardasil) available to protect against the 4 strains of the human papilloma virus. Two of these strains account for around 70% of cervical cancer cases.
Dr. Rojas says, "The vaccine also protects against genital warts and low grade lesions. Everyone who has sex will be exposed to HPV, but that doesn't mean everyone will get cervix cancer, that's why screenings are so important. "
Dr. Rojas strongly suggests that adolescent girls ages 11 and 12 be vaccinated against HPV before they become sexually active. But he says even if they are sexually active, it's still a good idea to get the shot.
Dr. Rojas says, "The vaccine is very good at protecting against cervix cancer but also to prevent the precursors to cervix cancer."
Dr. Rojas says it's also smart for girls to avoid high risk behaviors to avoid HPV in the first place. That includes, smoking, sexual promiscuity, and the age they start having sex. He says the younger they are the longer they'll be exposed to HPV. The only tried and true way to avoid HPV all together is abstinence.