93% of cervical cancer is preventable and yet it is the 4th most common cancer among women. January is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month and we’re looking at how to minimize your risk of cervical cancer.
Cervical Cancer is an overgrowth of cells in the lower part of the uterus (the part that connects to the vagina). Cervical cancer is often due to a long-lasting infection of HPV (Human Papillomavirus), which is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the United States.
But there are ways to minimize your chances of getting HPV and, in turn, cervical cancer. The first is to get vaccinated for HPV. All preteens are eligible for the HPV vaccine, which is given around age 11 or 12. Additionally, limiting your number of sexual partners, and making sure to use a condom with any sexual partners, also helps limit your chances of an HPV infection. It is important to remember that most people with HPV don’t know they have it since many people do not develop symptoms. However, according to the CDC, almost every sexually active person will get HPV at some point if they do not get vaccinated.
For those who are older (over age 21), regardless of whether they received the HPV vaccine, it is important to get a pap test/pap smear at least once every 3 years. A Pap smear checks for the growth of precancerous and cancerous cells in the cervix. It is important to get regular pap smears/tests. If cervical cancer is caught early, it is one of the most successfully treated. Most invasive forms of cervical cancer were found in women who had not had a pap smear in more than 5 years.
If you want to get vaccinated for HPV or get a pap smear, PDCHC can help. Call 502-774-4401 to make an appointment in our women’s health department.