January is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month. According to the CDC:
- More than 4,000 women die of cervical cancer each year.
- As many as 93% of cervical cancers can be prevented by screening and by the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination.
- In 2012, 8 million US women ages 21 to 65 reported they had not been screened for cervical cancer in the last 5 years.
All women are at risk for cervical cancer. It occurs most often in women over age 30. Each year, approximately 12,000 women in the United States are diagnosed with cervical cancer. Early detection and treatment can prevent many deaths.
- The Pap test looks for precancers, which are changes in cells on the cervix that may become cervical cancer if not treated.
- The HPV test looks for the virus that can cause these changes.
The most important step to take is for women to regularly have a Pap Test starting at age 21. If your Pap test results are normal, your doctor may say that you will not need another Pap test for three years. In women aged 30 and older, the HPV test can be used to screen for cervical cancer along with the Pap test. If the results are normal, your chance of getting cervical cancer in the next few years is very low.
Fortunately, the HPV vaccine prevents many of the viruses that cause cervical cancer and certain types of cancer that occur in men. This vaccine is given in a series of three injections, which girls and boys are recommended to start when they are 11 to 12 years of age. However, women up to age 26 may also receive the vaccine series, and men may receive the series up to age 21.
The 16 County Health Departments in the West Central Health District can help with both Pap tests for women and the HPV vaccine series. As part of the Breast and Cervical Cancer Program, screening is available to low-income, uninsured, and underinsured women. The Immunization Program offers adolescents and young men and women the HPV vaccine. To find a location, visit http://westcentralhealthdistrict.com/. For more information on Cervical Cancer, visit http://www.cdc.gov/cancer/cervical/index.htm