January is National Cervical Cancer Awareness Month! This year we are reminding everyone of the important steps that can be taken in order to prevent and screen for cervical cancer.
Each year, about 12,000 women in the United States get cervical cancer and about 4,000 women die from it. One of the main causes of cervical cancer is the human papillomavirus (HPV).
HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the United States, HPV is so common that most sexually-active men and women will get at least one type of HPV at some point in their lives. About 80 million people in the US are currently infected with HPV and about 14 million people in the US become newly infected each year. In most cases, HPV goes away on its own and does not cause any serious health problems. But when HPV does not go away, it can cause health serious problems, including cervical cancer.
A vaccine is available to protect men and women from getting the most serious strains of HPV.
FOR WOMEN: The vaccine is recommended for 11 or 12 year-old girls, but can also be given to women through age 26 who did not get any (or all) doses when they were younger.
FOR MEN: The vaccine is recommended for boys aged 11 or 12 years, but can also be given to men through age 21 who did not get any (or all) doses when they were younger. The vaccine is also recommended for men through the age of 26 who have sex with men or have a compromised immune system.
Contact your health care provider to learn more about vaccination options. If you need a health care provider, call the Mayor’s Health Line at 617-534-5050 for help locating one.
Prevent Cervical Cancer with the Right Test at the Right Time!
Screening tests, such as the “Pap test” and HPV test, can find abnormal cells so they can be treated before they turn into cancer. Most health providers perform this test.
- The Pap test looks for changes in cells on the cervix that could turn into cancer if left untreated.
- The HPV test looks for the virus that causes these cell changes.
Most women don’t need a Pap test every year!
The first Pap test is done when a woman turns 21 (even if they completed all necessary doses of the HPV vaccine).
- If results are normal, you may not have to repeat the test for three years. Your health care provider will determine how often you need to be tested.
- If results are abnormal, your health care provider will determine how often you need to be tested.
- HPV tests aren’t recommended for screening women under 30.
- When you turn 30, you can:
- If your test results are normal, get a Pap test every three years OR Get both a Pap test and an HPV test every five years.
- If either test results are abnormal, your health care provider will determine how often you need to be tested.
- You can stop getting screened if:
- You’re older than 65 and have had normal Pap test results for many years.
- Your cervix was removed during surgery for a non-cancerous condition like fibroids.
When cervical cancer is found early, it is treatable and associated with long survival and good quality of life.
Help prevent cervical cancer. Vaccinate you and your children against HPV infection, and if you are a woman 21 years old or older, get screened regularly!
Click here to learn more about HPV.