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Cervical cancer: It's preventable

Cervical cancer: It's preventable

This Cervical Health Awareness Month Get Screened, Vaccinated

January ushers in a new year and also Cervical Health Awareness Month — a perfect reminder about important steps you can take to prevent cervical cancer.

Each year nearly 14,000 women in the U.S. get cervical cancer, and about 4,300 don’t survive. Yet cervical cancer is one of the few cancers that’s almost totally preventable with screening and HPV (human papillomavirus) vaccination.

HPV is the Top Cause of Cervical Cancer

HPV, a common virus that spreads through sexual activity, causes almost all cases of cervical cancer. In fact, about 80 percent of sexually active people — both men and women — become infected at some point in their lives, but most don’t even know they have the virus.

Besides cervical cancer, HPV can also lead to anal, penile, vaginal, vulvar and oropharyngeal cancers.

Regular Pap and HPV Tests Can Prevent Cervical Cancer

You can prevent cervical cancer through regular screening tests, which include the:

  • Pap test, also called Pap smear
  • HPV test

A Pap test, which is usually done in conjunction with a female pelvic exam, can help detect abnormal or changed cells early on, before they turn into cancer. If detected early, cervical cancer is one of the most successfully treatable cancers.

In women older than 30 years, the Pap test may be combined with a test for the HPV virus. In some cases, the HPV test may be done instead of a Pap test.

HPV Vaccination Also Prevents Cancer

HPV vaccines help prevent infection that causes most cervical cancers. That is why the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends pre-teens get the HPV vaccine at age 11 or 12, as the vaccine produces a stronger immune response when taken during this time. This is also an age when children are still seeing their doctor regularly and getting other vaccinations. CDC recommends two doses of HPV vaccine for all adolescents at age 11 or 12 years.

HPV vaccination is also recommended through age 26 for females and males who were not vaccinated when younger.

Take These Simple Cancer-Preventing Steps Now!

Now is a perfect time to check in with your health care provider:

  • Women ages 21 and older, schedule your annual gynecologic exam or find out whether you’re due for a Pap test.
  • Young adults ages 13 to 26, if not already vaccinated, get catch-up HPV vaccines to protect yourself from future cancer-causing HPV infections.
  • Parents of pre-teens, make sure your pre-teen gets the HPV vaccine at age 11 or 12, way before your pre-teen becomes sexually active and when their
    immune response to the vaccine is strongest.

Please call 303-415-4015 to make an appointment with a BCH provider for a gynecologic visit, a cervical cancer screening or to schedule HPV vaccination.