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Cervical cancer once was the leading cause of cancer death for women in the United States. But the death rate - as well as the number of cases of cervical cancer - has declined dramatically because more women are having regular Pap tests to detect abnormalities.
According to Dr. Sarah Temkin, an oncologist who specializes in treating gynecologic cancers at the University of Maryland Medical Center, more than half of the women diagnosed with cervical cancer in this country have never had a Pap smear.
Dr. Temkin, who is also an assistant professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, explains that most cervical cancers are caused by the human papillomavirus, or HPV. In this interview, she tells Karen Warmkessel that HPV infection is very common, but only a small fraction of those who are infected develop cervical cancer. Dr. Temkin also discusses the new HPV vaccine and new guidelines regarding when young women should start getting regular Pap smears.
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