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TriWest: HPV vaccine protects against cervical cancer

AURORA, Colo. -- Cancer prevention comes in many forms; a healthy lifestyle, vaccines and routine screenings. All involve your ability to make healthy choices, but TRICARE makes those choices even easier by covering a vaccine that protects against cervical cancer, as well as routine screenings for early detection.

According to the American Cancer Society, more than 99 percent of cervical cancers are related to the human papilloma virus. In 2009, the National Cancer Institute estimated about 4,000 women died from cervical cancer and more than 11,000 women were newly diagnosed.

Literature from the American Cancer Society indicates more than 100 different types of HPV exist. The vaccine protects against the four types that cause 70 percent of all cervical cancers. But the vaccine will work only if given to girls before they are exposed to HPV.

Vaccinating against HPV
The HPV vaccine can be given at the same time as other vaccines. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends, and TRICARE covers, giving the vaccine to females between ages 11 and 26, although girls as young as 9 may get it. Women interested in getting the HPV vaccine should talk to their doctor.

The vaccine does not protect against every type of HPV infection and cannot prevent all cervical cancers. Therefore, women should still continue getting regular exams and Pap tests. Additionally, the vaccine does not protect women from sexually transmitted diseases, including AIDS.

Why Pap tests?
Cervical cancer used to be one of the most common causes of cancerous death for American women. But, according to the American Cancer Society, the death rate plunged 74 percent between 1955 and 1992. The reason? More women used the Pap test for early detection. Women should start testing within three years of becoming sexually active or at age 18, whichever comes first.

For more information on TRICARE benefits for cervical cancer, visit www.triwest.com/healthyliving. Register on www.triwest.com to manage your health care online, anytime from any Internet connection.
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