January is cervical cancer awareness month

KEYC News Now at 6 Recording
Published: Jan. 20, 2023 at 6:44 PM CST
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MANKATO, Minn. (KEYC) - 44-year-old Heidi Newbauer loves of traveling, the arts, teaching, and storytelling, which is why she wants to raise awareness of cervical cancer prevention through her own story.

When she was 19 years old, Newbauer was diagnosed with human papillomavirus infection, (HPV), after having an abnormal pap smear.

20 years later- coupled with numerous abnormal paps- a final diagnosis was found:

“I started to have just abnormal paps every time I went in even after having leaves and colposcopies and it turned out that I had cervical cancer,” cancer survivor Heidi Newbauer said.

According to doctors, 100% of cervical cancers are related to HPV, and it can take about 5-10 years after an initial HPV infection to become cervical cancer.

The American Cancer Society says that the overall cancer mortality rate has dropped 33% since 1991.

And a major reduction in cervical cancer infection and mortality is linked to the HPV vaccine.

“This is the only vaccine that we have that actually prevents cancer,” Mankato Clinic physician Dr. Scott Barnacle said. “The new Gardasil vaccine that we’re currently using actually covers nine different HPV viruses that can cause cancer.”

After treating her cancer through a radical hysterectomy and a cone biopsy, Newbauer has been cancer-free for six years.

This year, she will be receiving an HPV vaccine-

Something Newbauer wishes was available when she was younger.

“I’m at the last year where I can get the HPV vaccine, at 45, and I’m going to get it,” Newbauer said.

The recommendation for the HPV vaccine starts as early as 9 years old and extends up to age 45. Newbauer urges other to get the vaccine if they can.

“I really believe knowing now that the HPV vaccine is available, I think it’s just so important,” Newbauer said.

“When I see patients that haven’t been vaccinated, I always make sure to bring it up,” Dr. Barnacle added.

Doctors also recommend women 21-30 years old to get screened once every three years, and women 30-65 years old get a pap smear every three years, or every five years *with HPV screening.

“Getting a regular pap smear is so important especially if you feel you’ve had a history of irregular ones,” Newbauer urged. “Talk with your OBGYN about your concerns and those questions. Educate yourself on the vaccine.”