January is Cervical Health Awareness Month. The number of deaths caused by cervical cancer has decreased significantly over the past 30 years, but it’s still a very serious problem. The more informed women are about cervical cancer and cervical health, the better the odds of beating cervical cancer. We’re taking the opportunity this month to increase awareness about cervical health and provide women with information on how to protect against HPV and cervical cancer.
Cervical cancer used to be one of the most common cancer related deaths in American women. Over the past three decades, however, the number of deaths caused by cervical cancer has decreased by more than 50%. Increased awareness has certainly contributed to this decline, but screenings have made the biggest difference in reducing the cervical cancer death rate.
Screenings can help detect cancer in its early stages, and can even prevent cervical cancer altogether. Most deaths cause by cervical cancer could be prevented by screenings followed by the appropriate care.
There are two types of of tests used to screen for cervical cancer.
- Pap tests detect early cell mutations that could become cancer. These tests can also detect cervical cancer in its early stages, when it is still treatable.
- The human papillomavirus (HPV) test detects HPV infections.
Human papillomavirus is an extremely common infection. Approximately 79 million people in the United States have HPV, and many of these people carrying the virus unaware. HPV is the most commonly transmitted sexually transmitted infection, and nearly all sexually active people, both men and women, will contract HPV at some point in their lives.
HPV can come and go without having a long-lasting effect on a person’s health, but this isn’t always the case. Human papillomavirus is the most common cause of cervical cancer. HPV can also cause other types of cancer in both men and women.
Luckily, human papillomavirus can be prevented. HPV vaccinations are safe and effective, and can protect both men and women from HPV. Getting an HPV vaccination is a good place to start, but it’s also important for women to get regular screenings for cervical cancer.
It used to be recommended that women be screened for cervical cancer annually, but that changed in 2012. The American Cancer Society screening guidelines for cervical cancer suggest that women start cervical cancer screenings at the age of 21. Women should be screened every 3 years between the ages of 21 and 29, and every 5 years between the ages of 30 and 65. Women from ages 30 to 65 should have both a Pap test and HPV test. There are, however, a number of factors that could change how regularly you should get a screening.
To schedule a screening, or for more information, contact your physician.