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Cervical Cancer and Latina Women

Cervical Cancer and Latina Women

Currently there are two vaccines, Gardasil and Cervarix, that are available to prevent infection from the two major strains of HPV that cause over 70% of cervical cancer cases. They are most effective before your first sexual experience and are for girls and young women from 9 years of age until 26 years of age.

Helen Troncoso

January is cervical cancer awareness month. Cervical cancer is the cancer of the cervix, the lower portion of our uterus. Worldwide cervical cancer is the third most common cancer, and in the United States more than 12,000 women are diagnosed each year with slightly over 4,000 dying each year.

What causes cervical cancer?

Nearly all cases of cervical cancer are linked to the human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV is a sexually transmitted infection that is incredibly common. About 80% of the population will have had the virus at one time or another by the time they reach 50 years of age. For most of us the virus will go away on its own without any type of intervention needed. For others, when left undetected these abnormal cells continue to multiple and may develop into cervical cancer and death when left untreated.

Prevention is possible

Currently there are two vaccines, Gardasil and Cervarix, that are available to prevent infection from the two major strains of HPV that cause over 70% of cervical cancer cases. They are most effective before your first sexual experience and are for girls and young women from 9 years of age until 26 years of age. For boys and young men, the Gardasil vaccine also helps to prevent up to 90% of the cases that cause genital warts. Parents should speak to their doctor about this vaccine as they would with any other type of vaccine recommended for their children. Being vaccinated does not mean you should stop being screened for cervical cancer since the vaccines cover most, but not all strains that can cause cervical cancer.

Regularly scheduled pap tests will help detect abnormal cells earlier on. Having an HPV test at the same time as your pap test further increases your chances of early detection. The pap test looks for abnormal cells on the cervix, while the HPV test looks to see what is causing the abnormality. If you’re having sex then use a condom since it may lower your chance of being infected with HPV. Limiting the number of partners can also help decrease your risk, but just like pregnancy, it only takes one person. The only way to absolutely prevent HPV infection along with many other sexually transmitted diseases is abstinence.

Latinas and cervical cancer 

Latinas have the highest rates of incidence of cervical cancer than any other group, and also are more likely to die from cervical cancer. Of the slightly more than 4,000 women that die from cervical cancer in the United States each year, about half are Latinas. In some areas areas of the world, the obvious lack of available screening is the culprit. Here in the United States the main issue seems to be our lack of awareness. We don’t know enough. We don’t ask enough questions. We don’t schedule our pap smear exams. We put off our screenings for years. We get our exams and then don’t go back for our followups. We believe that by checking for HPV we will be seen as promiscuous. We worry about our husbands and our children, and we forget to take care of ourselves. If we don’t know how important prevention and early detection are for cervical cancer, then how can we demand access to better healthcare, treatment and funds to help cover the costs of these screenings and vaccination. Prevention starts by taking care of yourself first.

 

 

 

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What Plan Are We On Now?

What Plan Are We On Now?

Plan B One-Step is a form of emergency contraceptive that helps to prevent pregnancy for up to three days after unprotected intercourse

Helen Troncoso

Plan B One-Step is a form of emergency contraceptive that helps to prevent pregnancy for up to three days after unprotected intercourse, but works best the sooner you take it.

It is not the abortion pill, nor is it intended to be used as a form of regular birth control.

It won’t work if you are already pregnant, and it does not affect an existing pregnancy.

After extensively researching peer-reviewed medical journals, along with having the support of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Medical Association, the Society of Adolescent Health and Medicine and the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) came to a decision to make Plan B available over the counter for all women without a prescription.

To the disbelief of many, Health and Human Services Department Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, overruled the FDA’s recommendation.

Why then many are asking, was the decision reversed?

Did we let politics interfere with a woman’s right to manage her reproductive health?

Why do we still continue to drag our feet and seemingly obsess over if we are sending a message that will oversexualize our youth? Statistically, the Centers for Disease Control <http://www.cdc.gov/reproductivehealth/unintendedpregnancy/>  (CDC) reports that approximately half of all pregnancies in the United States are unplanned and 1,100 teen girls still give birth every day.

There is no denying these statistics.

We as a society continue to fail our youth with our repeated resistance to properly fund sexual education programs that not only teach about abstinence, but also on sexuality, sexually transmitted infections, birth control and other preventative measures.

Maybe if we invested in these types of program, teens would be better equipped to manage birth control and not have to use Plan B in the first place.

So again we have to ask why would Secretary Sebelius overrule the FDA’s recommendation?

In her statement she referred to there being not enough data to support Plan B one-step available over the counter to girls 16 and younger without first talking to a health care professional.

She also made sure to point out that ten percent of girls are physically capable of bearing children by 11.1 years of age – I guess she is afraid that there will be a line of 11 year-old girls at your local pharmacy buying Plan B.

Unfortunately those that need the emergency contraceptive the most, are often the ones who have limited access to it in the first place, and yet here we are placing yet another barrier.

What about those that are uninsured, or are dealing with issues of immigration status.

Are we now punishing them all because they should not have had sex in the first place and leaving them to deal with greater consequences like facing abortion or being a single parent.

 

Helen Troncoso is the reigning Ms. New York Belleza Latina 2011, women’s health advocate and writer. She received her doctorate in Physical Therapy from the University of Medicine & Dentistry of New Jersey and serves as 1st Vice President of the New York chapter of Tamika & Friends, Inc., a national non-profit organization dedicated to raising awareness on cervical cancer and its link to the human papillomavirus (HPV). You can email her at helen@helentroncoso.com, find her on Facebook: Ms New York Belleza Latina 2011 or tweet her @MsNYBL2011

 

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