Viborg- January is Cervical Health Awareness Month and Pioneer Memorial Hospital & Health Services wants you to know that there’s a lot you can do to prevent cervical cancer. With all women being at risk for cervical cancer, it’s important to be mindful of the health risks, symptoms and resources available to those in need. The Center for Disease Control (CDC), estimates 12,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer each year and about 4,000 women die from it annually.
The main cause of cervical cancer is human papillomavirus (HPV), a common virus that can be passed between people during sex. HPV is so common that most people will have it at some point during their lives without ever developing symptoms. About 90 percent of cases are cleared naturally by the immune system within two years; however, there is no way of knowing which individuals will go on to develop health problems. Some strains of HPV can cause warts around genitals or in one’s throat, while others can cause normal cells in the body to turn abnormal possibly leading to cancer over time. Other factors that can increase your risk for cervical cancer are smoking, having HIV, using birth control pills for an extended time (five or more years), or giving birth to three or more children.
The most important thing one can do to prevent cervical cancer is to have regular screening tests starting at age 21. It is recommended that an individual receive a pap smear every three years from ages 21 to 30 and then every five years from age 30 and above. Regular Pap tests performed by a doctor are the main defense against cervical cancer.
There are vaccines for HPV that can greatly decrease the chances of contracting the potentially malignant virus available to pre-teens and young adults. Safe sex practices can also lower the risk of infection for both cervical cancer and HPV.
“Since the vaccine has been in use, the percentage of cervical precancers caused by the HPV types most often linked to cervical cancer has dropped by 40 percent. The vaccine is recommended for everyone through the age of 26 years. However, a new study found that the vaccine may provide benefit to those that were not vaccinated prior to the age of 26. Talk to your doctor if you are between the ages of 27 and 45 about the potential benefits of receiving the HPV vaccine,” explained CNP at the Parker Medical Clinic Anna Husman.
Cervical Health Awareness is a nationally important matter. Women should be encouraged to get their well-woman visits with their doctor this year and be told of the resources available if they need help. Parents should know the HVP vaccine can also greatly decrease their children’s risk of contracting cervical cancer. Taking small steps can help keep you safe and healthy. For more information or to schedule an appointment with one of our providers, call 605-326-5201.
– Submitted by Pioneer Memorial Hospital