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SALT LAKE CITY – January is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month and approximately 14,000 women in the United States are diagnosed with this type of cancer each year.
Dr Jonathan Grant, radiation oncologist at Intermountain Healthcare, said long-lasting human papillomavirus infections are the main cause of cervical cancer.
“Cervical cancer is unique because it is one of the few cancers simulated by a virus,” he said.
There is now a vaccine to help prevent this disease, the HPV vaccine.
The American Cancer Society said cervical cancer rates fell 65% between 2012 and 2019 after a generation of young women were vaccinated against HPV for the first time.
“The HPV vaccine is one of the great success stories of the last ten to twenty years,” Grant said.
West Valley resident Marianne Peterson, 40, was diagnosed with cervical cancer in September 2021.
“I just felt like I was floating. It was surreal to be diagnosed with cervical cancer,” she said.
Her last two Pap smears came back with abnormal cells and a month before her next annual checkup she started bleeding heavily.
Grant said it’s a sign of cervical cancer. She immediately started chemotherapy and radiation therapy.
“I had never felt so sick in my entire life,” she said.
But she continued to fight through the illness.
“It was mostly to make sure I was here to take care of my kids and my dogs, but mostly my kids,” Peterson said.
Peterson is now cancer free and spends her time camping with her family and friends.
She said if the vaccine was available when she was younger, she would have received it. “I just think if there’s a vaccine that reduces the risk of getting this disease, that’s absolute no-brainer,” Peterson said.
Grant says the HPV vaccine is recommended for boys and girls between the ages of nine and 26 and before they are sexually active.