January is full of good intentions and goal setting. This year, make sure you put your health first. More than 13,000 women in the United States are diagnosed with invasive cervical cancer each year, yet this disease is one of the most preventable cancers today with vaccination and appropriate screening. Help Texas Emergency Care Center spread awareness of cervical cancer during January’s Cervical Cancer Awareness month by learning how to protect yourself.
In most cases cervical cancer can be prevented through early detection and treatment of abnormal cell changes that occur in the cervix years before cervical cancer develops. We now know that these cell changes are caused by human papillomavirus, commonly known as HPV.
- The traditional test for early detection has been the Pap test (or Pap smear). This test can catch – and lead to treatment of – the disease at the precancerous stage. Women should start screening at age 21.
- The human papillomavirus (HPV) test looks for the virus that can cause these cell changes for women age 30 and over. HPV tests can find any of the high-risk types of HPV commonly found in cervical cancer.
Since almost all cases of the disease are caused by human papillomavirus (HPV) infection, vaccines that protect against the virus could prevent the vast majority of cases.
The HPV vaccine protects against the types of HPV that most often cause cervical cancers. HPV vaccination prevents new HPV infections, but does not treat existing infections or diseases. This is why the HPV vaccine works best when given before any exposure to HPV.
- HPV vaccination is recommended for preteens aged 11 to 12 years, but can be given starting at age 9.
- HPV vaccine also is recommended for everyone through age 26 years, if they are not vaccinated already.
- HPV vaccination is not recommended for everyone older than age 26 years. HPV vaccination in this age range provides less benefit, as more people have already been exposed to HPV.
You should get screened for cervical cancer regularly, even if you received an HPV vaccine.
More than 50% of all new cervical cancers are in women who have never been screened or have not been screened in the previous five years. CDC’s National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program provides low-cost breast and cervical cancer screenings. Find out if you qualify.
Texas Emergency Care Center wants to keep the women in our community healthy. Cervical cancer was once a leading cause of cancer death for women in the United States. Today, screening and prevention have greatly reduced the impact of this form of cancer. Visit our facilities if you need help treating your symptoms.