Cancer isn’t completely preventable, but you can take measures to decrease your risk of certain types of cancer. Cervical cancer is highly preventable. HPV is the most common cause of cervical cancers. Preventing HPV is the first step in preventing cervical cancer. Cervical Health Awareness Month is the perfect opportunity for women to learn more about HPV and how to prevent cervical cancer.
What is HPV
HPV – or human pappillomavirus – is very common. 79 million Americans have HPV. HPV infections are spread through sexual activity, and most sexually active people will have HPV at some point in their lifetime. There are 14 million new cases of HPV in the U.S. each year, and many people are infected with HPV and don’t even know it.
HPV includes over 150 related viruses. Some HPV infections are harmless, and go away on their own after one or two years. Other types of HPV, however, can cause different types of cancer, including cervical cancer. HPV is the most common cause of cervical cancers.
Some HPV infections cause cervix cells to change. These abnormal changes can eventually become cervical cancer. More than 11,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer in the U.S. each year.
The good news is that HPV can be prevented. Preventing HPV greatly reduces the risk of cervical cancer.
HPV prevention and treatment
Vaccinate against HPV and get regular screenings to help prevent cervical cancer. The best way to prevent HPV infection is through vaccination. Screening is one of the best means of early detection, and early detection greatly increases cancer survival rates.
The HPV vaccine can be given until age 26, and as early as age 9. Vaccination is important for both boys and girls to help prevent the spread of HPV. The CDC recommends HPV vaccinations for boys and girls starting at age 11.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend regular Pap tests for women starting at age 21. Pap tests can help detect abnormal changes in cells before they become cancerous. HPV test looks for the virus that causes cervix cells to change.
There is no treatment for human papillomavirus itself, which is why vaccination is so important. There are treatments, however, for the health problems caused by HPV.
Make an appointment for your child’s HPV vaccination, and talk to your primary care provider about regular Pap tests and HPV test screenings.