Were you aware that almost 12,000 women will be diagnosed with cervical cancer this year? January is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month so we are going to discuss three ways you can protect yourself from this disease.
Studies have shown that the human papillomavirus (HPV) is the primary cause of cervical cancer. Unfortunately, HPV happens to be the most common sexually transmitted infection in the country. Not everyone who is infected will end up with cervical cancer– only certain strains of HPV trigger cancer.
(Quick Fact: HPV has become so common that just about everyone who is sexually active will come in contact with it at some point.)
So what steps can you take to mitigate your personal risk for cervical cancer?
1) Get Screened Regularly
Women should consider going in for regular Pap tests once they reach their twenties. It’s one of the most effective cancer screening tests available. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) suggests that women get screened once every three years starting at age 21 until 30, then every five years until they turn 65.
ACOG reports that the Pap test has helped reduced the number of cervical cancer deaths by more than 50 percent over the last three decades. The disease can take nearly that long to develop, so women are strongly encouraged to get screened regularly throughout their lifetime. This form of cancer is highly treatable when caught early on.
2) Get Vaccinated for HPV
The HPV vaccine has proven to be an incredibly potent tool in preventing cervical cancer. The vaccine works against two particular strains of HPV which are responsible for nearly 75 percent of all cervical cancers. Since this infection causes the issue, consider the vaccine a first line of defense.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests that all girls be vaccinated against HPV at some point between the ages of 9 and 26. Most receive the series while they are in middle school. Boys are also encouraged to get vaccinated between the ages of 11 and 21.
3) Practice Safe Sex
People who are sexually active need to remember to take certain precautions. Using a latex condom helps lower your risk of contracting:
- Genital Warts
- HIV and other common types of sexually transmitted diseases/infections
Keep in mind that HPV can spread to areas that a condom doesn’t cover, so there is still a minor risk of infection.
Remember that January is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month which means it is a perfect time to discuss your cervical health with your doctor. For more information about HPV and cervical cancer, be sure to visit the National Cervical Cancer Coalition.