January is cervical health awareness month
January 02, 2020
Every year, 3.1 million women have an abnormal pap smear in the U.S. 300,000 of those women have high grade pre-cancerous changes detected, and nearly 13,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer. The human papilloma virus (HPV) causes the vast majority of abnormal pap smears and almost all cervical cancers. HPV can be tested for at the same time as your pap smear.
The HPV vaccine can help prevent most of the HPV infections that can lead to abnormal pap smears and cervical cancer. The CDC recommends both boys and girls get the vaccine starting at age 11-12. Why so young? Because the vaccine is most effective before any contact with HPV. And now, women and men can get the vaccine up to age 45 to help decrease their risk of getting a new strain of the virus.
While the guidelines for the pap smear have changed in recent years, it is important to make sure you still get pap smears and pelvic exams on the recommended schedule. Not sure when you’re due? Contact you doctor to schedule your annual physical exam and encourage your friends and family to get theirs as well. You may not need a pap smear this time, but you can ask when you should get the test next.
Improved detection tools have made cervical cancer preventable and treatable, but women who aren’t screened regularly or vaccinated run a much higher risk of developing cancer. And unfortunately, nearly a third of women with cervical cancer will die each year. So make the time for your screening test!
Start out your new year on the track to healthy and happy by making sure that you – or the women in your life – are vaccinated and screened for HPV and cervical cancer.