Friday, October 07, 2005

Pre-op decisions: Keeping your cervix, revisited

The decision to keep one's cervix may have just gotten a little simpler for some women...or their daughters, at least. As you may have noted in our previous discussion of this topic, a certain number of women opt to have their cervix removed not because of specific cervical pathology but because they want to be protected from the risk of developing cervical cancer in the future. For these women, news released this week about a new vaccine that offers protection from the most common causes of cervical cancer may allow them to make that decision differently.

I'm not sure yet how and when this is going to play out. The vaccine hasn't been approved yet, but given the large test sample and the overwhelmingly positive results, I'm having a hard time believing the US FDA is going to drag their feet in approving this.

The manufacturer notes that this vaccine "should" be given before a young woman becomes sexually active to "ensure" protection. This doesn't address its use in women who are already sexually active but perhaps are not yet infected and who could conceivably benefit from that protection. As with so many things to do with a hyst, this will need to be a personalized decision: weighing the risks of having been infected against the inpact cervical removal might have on one's sexual response. But as time goes by and more of the women who are faced with the need for a hyst have been protected by this vaccine, that decision to ditch a cervix for prophylactic reasons may become less urgent for many. And, all things considered, that's good news.