Each year, over 12,000 women in the United States are diagnosed with cervical cancer. Fortunately, this disease is highly preventable and treatable with improved screening and vaccination procedures. The National Cervical Cancer Coalition (NCCC) and American Sexual Health Association have named January Cervical Health Awareness Month to encourage women across the country to get screened for cervical cancer and receive the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine if eligible.
HPV is common among women and is the main contributing factor for causing cervical cancer. Most often, there are no associated symptoms or health issues with the virus, and clears away with a healthy immune system. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are more than 100 identified HPV types, over 40 of which can infect the genital area. Their association with cancer classifies these types. Low-risk HPV types such as HPV 6 or 11 can cause benign or low-grade abnormalities of cervical cells. High-risk HPV types such as types 16 and 18 with persistent infection cause more cancer-related outcomes.
Cervical cancer develops very slowly as a precancerous condition from abnormal cells known as dysplasia. These cells can easily be detected with a PAP test and then effectively treated accordingly. If left undetected, dysplasia can turn into cervical cancer. Make sure to talk to your healthcare provider about regular PAP tests, other HPV screenings and vaccinations.
It is important to get the facts and realize the treatments for cervical cancer. Women who are not screened on a regular basis or don’t receive the vaccination may see increased risks for cervical cancer that can even be fatal. More and more efforts are continued to educate women and promote greater access to health care. The focus is increasing the number of eligible women to receive the HPV vaccine.
Get screened and help promote this Cervical Health Awareness Month.