January is Cervical Health Awareness Month
Everyone is afraid of the C word: cancer. But the facts are, according to cancer.gov, almost 40% of people will get cancer in their lifetimes. That’s a pretty big number, and it means we should be aware of the facts: risk factors, preventative matters, and treatment options. This brings us to Cervical Health Awareness Month, which occurs every January to raise awareness about cervical cancer and overall cervical health.
First, the facts about cervical cancer: every year, more than 11,000 women are likely to be diagnosed with cervical cancer, but it’s also important to note that this specific cancer has a high survival rate. One important factor when it comes to surviving cervical cancer is catching it early, and that means getting tested consistently. Women over the age of 21 need to get a pap smear every 3 years. After 30, women have some options– a pap smear every 3 years, a HPV test every 5 years, or co-testing every five years, are all potential options. After age 65, women who are not high risk can often stop regular pap smears.
Cervical cancer is closely tied to HPV, which bears a stigma of its own. (Note: 99% of cervical cancer cases are linked to HPV infection!) But there is no reason to be ashamed if you find yourself diagnosed with HPV– in fact, many Americans are carriers for HPV without even knowing it. While this is absolutely nothing to be ashamed of, this little factoid does emphasize the importance of preventative measures. Practicing safe sex and getting the HPV vaccine are two ways to lessen your chances of developing HPV.
There are plenty of resources about cervical cancer, its prevention and treatment, and more available. The National Cervical Cancer Coalition provides extensive free resources, as well as options to donate for those wishing to show some support. The CDC also offers information about cervical cancer on their website. This month is a great time to take the time to educate yourself, particularly if you are a woman of the age where you are at a higher risk of developing cervical cancer or HPV.
Of course, the most important thing you can do during Cervical Health Awareness Month if you’re a woman, is to schedule an appointment with your OBGYN for a pap smear and/or HPV test if you’re behind schedule. Celebrate this important awareness month by staying safe and sharing information!