The month of January is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month, a chance for us to talk about this deadly disease and how we can protect ourselves.
No woman should die of cervical cancer. The most important thing you can do to help prevent cervical cancer is to get screened regularly starting at age 21.
Each year, an estimated 12,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer, and, of those, about one-third will die as a result of the cancer. But cervical cancer is also a highly preventable and treatable cancer, thanks to improved screening and vaccination.
Two tests can help prevent cervical cancer or find it early—
- The Pap test (or Pap smear) looks for pre-cancers, which are cell changes on the cervix that might become cervical cancer if they are not treated appropriately.
- The HPV (human papillomavirus) test looks for the virus that can cause these cell changes.
The Pap test is recommended for women between ages 21 and 65, and can be done in a doctor’s office or clinic. Women should start getting Pap tests regularly at age 21. If your Pap test results are normal, your doctor may say you can wait three years until your next Pap test. If you are 30 years old or older, you may choose to have an HPV test along with the Pap test. Both tests can be performed by your doctor at the same time. If your test results are normal, your chance of getting cervical cancer in the next few years is very low. Your doctor may then say you can wait as long as five years for your next screening.
HPV is a very common infection that spreads through sexual activity. It’s also a major cause of cervical cancer. Many people with HPV don’t know they are infected.
The good news? The HPV vaccine (shot) can prevent HPV.
So ladies, lets not forget that cervical cancer can often be prevented with regular screening tests (called Pap tests) and follow-up care. Most deaths from cervical cancer could be prevented by regular Pap tests and follow-up care.
Pass this message on to any woman you know and stay protected.