January is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month, and all of us here at Family Healthcare Associates encourage women to take care of their health through routine cervical cancer screenings and vaccinations. According to the American Cancer Society, last year 13,800 women were diagnosed with cervical cancer and tragically 4,290 lives were lost. Our goal is to help reduce that number by spreading awareness until cervical cancer is a thing of the past.
In the 1970s, cervical cancer was the leading cause of death for women in the United States—but not anymore. What changed? Cancer screenings. Since precancerous cell changes grow into cancer over time, regular screenings are extremely effective at detecting abnormal changes. That’s why we recommend all women age 25 to 65 get a Pap test (or Pap smear) every three years.
We also encourage women to get the human papillomavirus (HPV) test every five years, which is administered the same way as a Pap Smear. If primary HPV testing is not available in your area, screenings may be done with a co-test, which combines an HPV test with a Pap test every 5 years. Both tests are simple, fast, and painless.
Considering 90% of cervical cancer cases are caused by HPV, after getting screened, why not get the HPV vaccine? The vaccine targets the two HPV strains that are passed through sexual activity. If you are a parent, we recommend that you vaccinate your children before they become sexually active. Vaccinations can start as early 12 years old for both boys and girls. Keep in mind, the HPV vaccine doesn’t treat an HPV infection, but it can prevent the transmission of strains you haven’t already been infected with. Women in the United States have taken great strides in decreasing cervical cancer since the 1970s, let’s continue to take care of ourselves by getting screened this month. Make an appointment today with one of our physicians, and let’s fight cervical cancer together.