January is Cervical Health Awareness Month. Cervical cancer is a disease where the cells of the cervix grow uncontrollably. The cervix is a part of the female reproductive system.
Cervical cancer impacts nearly 13,000 women every year, however this disease is one of the few preventable cancers today. Cervical cancer is commonly caused by human papilloma virus (HPV), which can be transferred from person to person through sexual contact. So, what can you do to lower your risk of cervical cancer?
Regular, appropriate screenings
There are 2 tests that can and should be performed to help prevent cervical cancer
- Pap test (pap smear) should be done regularly in any female 21-65 years old, even if you think you are too old to have a child or are not sexually active anymore
- HPV test looks for a specific virus that can cause the cell changes seen in cervical cancer
HPV vaccine should be given to:
- All kids (boys & girls) who are 11 or 12 years old should get 2 separate shots 6-12 months apart
- Teen boys and girls who did not start or finish the HPV shots should get them as soon as possible (they may require three shots if they are over 14 years old)
- Young women should get the shots up to age 26, and young men up to age 21
- HPV can occur in both men & women, even if a condom is being used.
- Smoking increases your risk for cervical cancer.
- There is no treatment currently for HPV, however there are plenty of options used to treat the diseases caused by HPV.
- Early on, there are no true signs or symptoms of cervical cancer. Bleeding or discharge from the vagina that is not normal would be a sign that you should see a doctor.
For more information on cervical cancer and HPV, please visit: