The cervix is an important organ that has the function of protecting the uterus from foreign bodies and facilitating the course of pregnancy and the delivery of a baby. The cervix can be affected by any disease, one such disease being cervical cancer. Cervical cancer is a disease of the cervix where normal cells lose their ability to behave properly and start growing out of control. The disease starts locally at the cervix and, if left unchecked, can spread to other organs in the body, a process called metastasis. When this happens, these cancer cells disrupt normal bodily processes and steal resources to continue growing out of control. According to the American Cancer Society, in 2021 there were over 14,000 new cases of cervical cancer in the United States.
Fortunately, cervical cancer is one of the most preventable cancers through vaccination and screening strategies. According to the American Cancer Society, the greatest risk of getting cervical cancer is infection with the human papillomavirus, or HPV. The virus mainly spreads to the cervix during sexual intercourse. There are a variety of strains of HPV, and they usually cause warts when they establish an infection. Some strains, especially HPV-16 and HPV-18, are known to cause cancer because they disrupt normal cell behavior and cause cells to grow out of control. Gardasil is a vaccine that helps protect against these two strains by generating an immune response to the viruses so that if the virus enters the body, the immune system destroys the virus. Gardasil can be given from 9 to 14 years old, where a series of two injections is given. For people aged 15 to 45, a series of three shots is given. This vaccination can help prevent the development of cervical cancer in women.