What Every Teen Girl Needs to Know About Cervical Cancer

What Every Teen Girl Needs to Know About Cervical Cancer
15-Year-Old Alexandra Spitzer Reveals her Unique Perspective,
Offers Some Little-Known Facts about this Growing Issue Affecting More Teen Girls Every Year

Today's world is a demanding place for teenagers of the digital generation. As a 15-year-old, I know from experience that many of my friends at school are consumed with stress and worry over arguably trivial issues - like which guy to go out with, the hottest jean label or how to style their hair. But beyond those, are issues that many of us overlook, including the growing problem of cervical cancer among teens aged 15- to 19-years-old. While most girls in our age group feel that cancer is a disease that doesn't affect them, cervical cancer attacks thousands of women each year - and the rate at which it is invading teenage girls is climbing faster than any other demographic.
Statistics reveal that the rate at which teen girls aged 15-19 are affected with cervical cancer has increased 6.8 percent over the last few years. In fact, cervical cancer in women over 25 is actually declining, while the rate of the disease amongst teenagers is increasing every year. Approximately 74 percent of new HPV infections show up in people within the age range of 15-24. That's means almost three out of every four new cases of HPV are in girls just like you and me.
Research has found that most cervical cancer cases are caused by the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). The two types of HPV that contribute to the development of 70 percent of cervical cancers are HPV 16 and HPV 18. Some girls are able to rid themselves of the virus, but for others it develops into cancer years later. About 50 percent of sexually active women and teen girls are at high risk for HPV; and when these women reach the age of 50, 80 percent will have a genital HPV infection.
NOW is the Time to Learn the Facts about HPV
Here's what you need to know: HPV can be spread simply by shaking someone's hand that has a wart on it or by having unprotected sex with someone who has genital warts. Once somebody comes into contact with HPV, it usually takes three to four months for symptoms to appear. What are the symptoms? Well, the most common symptoms of HPV are small, flesh colored warts that can appear all over the exterior part of the body. Depending on the type of HPV, the warts can vary from small to large and can be painful, usually found on the bottom of your feet. Genital warts can also be found covering the skin of sex organs and the anal opening. It's not something that's fun to hear about, but it's even less fun to find out later. Better to know now that these warts and an HPV infection can greatly increase the chances of developing cervical cancer. Much research has shown that HPV warts have caused the development of cervical cancer and squamous cell cancer of the genitals. Mouth and throat cancer can also be a result of these infections.
Girls aren't the only ones who can get HPV. Both guys and girls can get HPV from all types of sex, such as vaginal, oral and anal sex. Sometimes people don't even know that they have developed HPV because they have no symptoms. Warts do not always appear on everyone who has an HPV, but that does not mean that the disease isn't running through their bodies. HPV is a contagious disease, and it is easily passed on to others. Teens can infect other teens without even knowing that they, themselves, are the ones carrying and spreading the disease. The only way to be 100 percent sure that you and your boyfriend or partner are uninfected is to see a doctor to be tested for the disease.
What YOU Can Do to Prevent Cervical Cancer
Cervical cancer is a real danger impacting the lives of teenagers today- but there are ways to prevent this life-threatening disease. Two new vaccines have been developed to kill HPV types known to cause cancer. The vaccines have proven to be very effective, preventing or reducing the risk of disease by 90 percent. Researchers have decided that to help prevent the number of people affected by cervical cancer, they will start vaccinating girls starting at the age of 11-12 years old. This is said to reduce the risk of obtaining the disease by 94 percent.
It is extremely important for all girls to get the vaccine for HPV and cervical cancer, which protects girls from getting some of the most harmful factors of HPV. The FDA has approved the vaccine safe for girls ages 9 to 26. It requires three injections over a six-month period. The vaccine does not protect girls who have already been infected by HPV prior to the injection. However, the vaccine does not protect against all types of HPV. It is important that girls who are sexually active visit the doctor for check-ups frequently.
Remember, if you are going to have sex, you must use a condom. But the best way to prevent the possibility of an STD or HPV is to remain abstinent until you are ready.

About the Author: Alexandra Spitzer is a 15-year-old honors student at Sage Hill School in the Newport Coast area of Newport Beach, Calif. She co-founded and leads the Junior Pearls auxiliary program of Beckstrand Cancer Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving and enhancing the quality of life for cancer patients and their families. To learn more about Junior Pearls, please visit www.Beckstrand.org.