Purpose: Cervical cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths among women worldwide. Human papillomavirus (HPV) has been shown to be the precursor of cervical cancer in over 99% of these cases. Although preventative measures have greatly reduced the burden of HPV-induced cervical cancer, these measures cannot be utilized by women who are unaware of the existence of HPV and its relationship to their health. Women over the age of 40 are being newly diagnosed with HPV, profoundly impacting their lives and their sense of well-being. This article highlights the necessity for clinicians to assess knowledge, health beliefs, and preventative measures regarding HPV and cervical cancer in women over the age of 40.
Data sources: Review of scientific literature of knowledge, health beliefs, and preventative measures in women regarding HPV and cervical cancer and clinical practice guidelines.
Conclusions: Although women aged 40 and above are not specifically considered high risk for HPV infection, many women are testing positive in this age group and are facing the impact of an HPV diagnosis that implicates a sexually transmitted disease and is known to be a precursor to cervical cancer.
Implications for practice: Suggested questions to use for all patients are presented as it is crucial for healthcare providers to understand the healthcare needs of this age group in order to appropriately direct resources and to save the lives of women from this preventable disease.