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HPV Cervical Cancer

Learn how this type of cancer is detected, and what you can do to protect yourself.

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-Hi, I'm Juli Auclair, and today we're talking about something that all women need to hear about, HPV or human papilloma virus and cervical cancer. The statistics are absolutely frightening. Did you know that 80% of women will be infected with genital HPV in their lifetime? Most infections clear up on their own but those that don't may lead to cervical cancer, and we're joined in the studio by someone who has been through it. Founder and president of Liz Lange Maternity and cervical cancer survivor, Liz Lange, is here to share the story of her personal battle with the disease. Thank you so much for coming in. -Well, thank you for having me, Juli. -How are you doing now? -Well, I am healthy today. I'm healthy- -Thank goodness. -I'm happy-- Yes, thank goodness, thank you. -So, while most people know you for your beautiful maternity clothes that celebrities love to wear, I love also to wear during my pregnancies,-- -Thank you. -they don't know that you were going through the fight of your life. Back in 2001, diagnosed with cervical cancer at just 35 years old, must have been so frightening for you. Tell us a little bit about how you found out that you had it. -I found out just at a routine Pap smear. It is so important for women to get these routine screenings and Pap smears. I am very, very fortunate. It was the screening that saved my life, but it was, as you mentioned, absolutely terrifying. I was a mother of two very young children, a 2-1/2-year-old son and a pretty much newborn baby girl, and it was a shock and very, very frightening, and because HPV really, in most cases, has no signs or symptoms, I had no idea. -Tell us what kind of treatment you went through after finding out? -It was a tough treatment. I had surgery and surgery was followed by both chemotherapy and radiation that were done together which is, you know, which is somewhat grueling. Thankfully, I was cured and the good news about cervical cancer is that, in many cases, if caught early, it is curable and, again, that is why-- -You have to go. -getting these screenings is so crucial. You know, I was listening to the statistics that you mentioned and I wanted to add another, that there was a recent survey done by the Gynecological Cancer Foundation, and they found that actually, 89% of women don't think that they're at risk for HPV. Now, 30 women a day are diagnosed with cervical cancer. -It's so scary. -Scary. I was one of them. You know, as you said, 80% of women will get HPV. Most of that will not lead to cervical cancer. -So go to your doctor. -But still-- Go to your doctor. -Get checked out, and since you were diagnosed and have been cured, you've been working very hard to raise awareness about HPV, about cervical cancer, tell us about the health journal that you've designed and how women can get one. -Oh, what's great is there's a website, allaboutcervicalcancer.org, and if you go to that website, you can take a quick quiz and learn more, and just for doing that, I have designed this special journal. It is free. It's my gift to you, and it's a great journal if I do say so myself. I think it's very chic and very pretty, but more than that, it will help you keep track of when to get these screenings. There's a full calendar in it, and there's more than that. There's places to take notes, questions to ask your doctor, things your doctor said. I personally know how hard it is to remember all that stuff. -Liz Lange, thank you so much for coming in, for sharing your story and everyone needs to have one of those journals. -Thank you. -Thank you so much, and for more information about HPV or cervical cancer, go to www.allaboutcervicalcancer.org, and now let's check in with a doctor to find out exactly what HPV is, whether you can prevent it, and what we should be telling our teenage daughters. -You're watching Parents TV. E-mail us at ideas@parents.tv <mailto:ideas@parents.tv>. -And Dr. Michelle Francis, an OB/Gyn at St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital here in New York City, is joining us now. We're so glad that you're back with us today. -Thank you. -So you can clear up some of this 'cause I know people have a lot of questions and let's just-- let's start right in with what exactly is HPV and how do you get it? -Well, HPV is a virus, not unlike a virus that you get sick, but it's a virus that you get only when you're sexually active, so if you're having sex, not so much with the contact like if somebody touches you and then they touch themselves, you can get HPV. It's usually with sexual intercourse. -Okay, so, are there symptoms, though? How do you know you have it and what-- how do you treat it? -Okay. There are two types of HPV. There's the high-risk HPV that causes abnormal cells in your cervix, and then there's the low risk. The low-risk HPV, the one that causes genital warts, will usually present itself as just that, as warts on your vaginal area. The high-risk HPV, it's a little bit more difficult to tell by just by your usual symptoms. -Let's talk about treatment. -Okay. -What can you do if these do present themselves? -Okay. For high risk, it's a little bit more involved, but for low-risk HPV, you can use a cream or you can ask your doctor to remove the lesions. However, the clinical manifestations, meaning that the actual lesions on your vulva, they don't necessarily mean that the virus has gone away, so we can get rid of the wart, but we won't necessarily get rid of the virus. -Okay, so, the problem is if you don't treat it, it can lead to cervical cancer. I know this doesn't happen in every case, but talk to us about how that happens. How does it become, or could it become cancer, and how many cases actually turn into cervical cancer? -Okay, so, HPV, high risk, which causes abnormal cells on your cervix, about 20 million people have that virus. Only about 13,000 per year become cervical cancer. -You can actually get HPV in your 20s and then it could lead to cancer though in your 40s? -It can, but it usually takes a good ten years for the -- the onset of the HPV virus to become cervical cancer and, you know, you would have to ignore quite a few symptoms and you wouldn't be coming for your annual Pap smears, so if you come for your annual Pap smears and you pay attention to symptoms such as spotting in between your periods and you've come and see your doctor, then your chance of getting cervical cancer is extremely low. -Okay. So, there's a lot of controversy surrounding the HPV vaccine. Some people say it's dangerous. Tell us, should women and young girls be getting this vaccine and what are the side effects? -Well, that's a difficult question because you have to weigh the risk of the vaccine versus the benefits. Now, we're talking that cervical cancer only affects 13,000 people per year, which is relatively low. However, the side effects from the vaccine only affect a very, very, very small percentage of people, so you would have to talk to your doctor about certain illnesses that you may have, how you're feeling at the time to see if you're a good candidate for the HPV vaccine. -What are some of the things that happen? Fainting I've heard, maybe nausea. -Yeah, you can get pain at the site of the injection, you might have a low-grade fever. If you have any allergies to, let's say, yeast, you could have a much more severe side effect, so, again, even though the risk of the HPV vaccine is very low, you should still speak to your doctor about the symptoms. -Okay, so while it's, of course, important to get a yearly Pap smear, tell us some of the symptoms of cervical cancer that women should be looking out for. -The symptoms are-- they're pretty vague. I say this with caution because if someone has spotting in between their periods, the chance of them having cervical cancer is extremely low, but that would probably be one of the most common symptoms is pelvic pain or spotting in between their periods. Cervical cancer in and of itself is a pretty quiet type of cancer until it's more advanced in its stages so- -So get the Pap smear. -Just get your Pap smear. -Every year. -Every year. -Dr. Francis, thank you so much for clearing some of that up for us. I really appreciate you coming in. -No problem. -And, again, if you'd like to know more about HPV and cervical cancer, you can check out www.allaboutcervicalcancer.org. Thanks so much for watching Parents TV. We'll see you soon.