January is Cervical Health Awareness Month
Cervical cancer was once the leading cause of cancer death for women in the United States.
Now, thanks to cervical cancer screening and HPV vaccination, it is the most preventable of all female cancers.
Cervical Cancer is Preventable
The United States Congress designated January as Cervical Health Awareness Month. More than 13,000 women in the United States are diagnosed with invasive cervical cancer each year, but the disease is preventable with vaccination and appropriate screening.
You can lower your risk for cervical cancer by getting screened regularly, starting at age 21.
You should get your first Pap test at age 21. If your test result is normal, you can wait three years for your next test. The HPV vaccine protects against the types of HPV that most often cause cervical cancers. HPV can also cause other kinds of cancer in both men and women.
HPV vaccination prevents new HPV infections, but does not treat existing infections or diseases. This is why the HPV vaccine works best when given before any exposure to HPV. You should get screened for cervical cancer regularly, even if you received an HPV vaccine.
HPV Vaccines Prevent Cervical Cancer: The Message is Clear
Being that it is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month, it’s a great time to talk about how human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccines can help prevent cancer. About 79 million people, most in their late teens and early 20s, are currently infected with HPV, and an additional 14 million are estimated to be infected each year–a compelling reason to protect preteens and teens early through vaccination.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends HPV vaccination for 11- and 12-year-old girls and boys, as well as for young women ages 13 through 26 and young men ages 13 through 21 who have not yet been vaccinated.
CDC estimates that increasing HPV vaccination rates from current levels to 80 percent would prevent an additional 53,000 future cervical cancer cases in the United States among girls who now are 12 years old or younger over the course of their lifetimes. Protect your loves ones from cancer by asking about the HPV vaccine!
What Can You Do To Prevent Cervical Cancer?
HPV vaccines can help prevent infection from both high risk HPV types that can lead to cervical cancer and low risk types that cause genital warts. The CDC recommends all boys and girls get the HPV vaccine at age 11 or 12 as the vaccine produces a stronger immune response when taken during the preteen years. For this reason, up until age 14, only two doses are the vaccine are required. The vaccine is available for all males and females through age 45 but, for those 15 and older, a full three-dose series is needed.
A Pap test can find cell changes to the cervix caused by HPV. HPV tests find the virus and help healthcare providers know which women are at highest risk for cervical cancer. Pap and HPV tests (either alone or in combination) are recommended for women over 30: each woman should ask her health care provider how often she should be screened and which tests are right for her.
Knowledge is Power: Cervical Cancer
This short animated video from the CDC reminds women that getting screened for cervical cancer helps prevent the disease.