January 18, 2017 / Scott Barton, MD
January is Cervical Health Awareness Month, a good time to remember that cervical cancer affects 13,000 women in the United States every year.* Let’s take a closer look at the disease, find out who is at risk, and see what can be done to prevent and cure it.
One of the major causes of cervical cancer is Human Papillomavirus, or HPV, a sexually transmitted infection (STI) that affects a whopping one in four Americans every year. HPV is the most common STI, but the majority of those who get infected don’t develop symptoms. Unfortunately, this means they often spread the virus without even knowing it.
HPV is so common that nearly all men and women get it at some point in their lives, according to CDC.gov.* Symptoms — like genital warts — can appear years after infection, making it difficult to know when the virus was contracted. More often than not, HPV goes away on its own, and the warts associated with it disappear. But in serious cases, HPV symptoms can progress into cervical cancer. Cancer.org says the disease typically takes years to develop.*
Screening, also known as a Pap smear.
Usually administered by an OB/GYN, a Pap smear helps detect abnormal cells early on. Catching these in the pre-cancerous stage allows time for treatment before invasive cervical cancer begins. Thankfully, there are many effective treatment options including cryotherapy and surgery.*
Because HPV can lead to cervical cancer, getting the HPV vaccine is one of the best ways to prevent it. If you or your child has never been vaccinated, schedule an appointment with your doctor to find out if and when you should receive the vaccine. The vaccine is indicated up to the age of 26 only.
Avoid exposure to HPV.
In order to eliminate the risk of contracting HPV, it is very important to practice safe sex and use condoms.
Help us educate more people.
The more we can spread the word about cervical health, the more likely people are to take precautions like safe sex, well-woman visits, and screenings. Please help us educate others by sharing this article!