Cervical Health Awareness Month
January is Cervical Health Awareness Month. More than 13,000 women in the U.S. are diagnosed with invasive cervical cancer each year, but the disease is preventable with vaccination and appropriate screening. You can lower your risk for cervical cancer by getting screened regularly, starting at age 21.
A Pap test (or Pap smear) can find cell changes to the cervix caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV tests looks for the virus and can help healthcare providers determine who is at highest risk for cervical cancer. Pap and HPV tests are recommended for women over the age of 30. These tests can be done either alone or in combination. Each woman should ask her health care provider how often she should be screened, and which tests are right for her.
The HPV vaccine protects against the types of HPV that most often cause cervical cancers. HPV can also cause other kinds of cancer in both men and women. The CDC recommends preteens get the HPV vaccine at age 11 or 12. The HPV vaccine also is recommended for everyone up to the age of 26, if they are not vaccinated already. HPV vaccination is not recommended for those older than the age of 26. However, some adults through the ages of 27 to 45 years who are not already vaccinated may decide to get the HPV vaccine after speaking with their doctor about their risk for new HPV infections and the possible benefits of vaccination. HPV vaccination in this age range provides less benefit, as more people have already been exposed to HPV.