January is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month, and enterade is proud to help raise awareness for a cancer that impacts more than 13,000 women annually.
Nearly all cases of cervical cancer are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV), a common virus that is passed from one person to another during sex. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), at least half of sexually active people will have HPV at some point in their lives, but few women will get cervical cancer. Thankfully, when cervical cancer is found early, it is highly treatable and associated with long survival and good quality of life.
Because cervical cancer develops over time, it is the easiest gynecologic cancer to prevent. In support of this month, the National Foundation for Cancer Research (NFCR) shared prevention tips that all women should consider:
- Having a regular PAP test at your gynecologist’s office. This test should be done every three years from ages 21 to 30. If these test results remain normal throughout a patient’s early years, risk of cervical cancer developing is low.
- Having an HPV test. This should be done beginning at age 30 or in response to an irregular PAP test.
- According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), after age 30, if both the PAP test and HPV test comes back normal, you can ask your doctor to wait 5 years before your next set of tests. But still complete routine yearly check-ups.
- Getting the HPV vaccine. This is administered in a series of two or three injections between the ages of 9 and 26, and is recommended by the CDC to be administered to both boys and girls at around age 11 or 12. The vaccine prevents the most common forms of HPV attributable to cervical, vulvar or vaginal cancer from developing.
- Prudently considering birth control usage. Women who use oral birth control pills have an increased risk of developing cervical cancer. This risk drops significantly and swiftly once the pill is stopped. Taking oral contraceptives for more than a period of five years has been associated with doubling the risk of developing cervical cancer. While prevention is key, it is also important to understand the signs and symptoms of cervical cancer so you can discuss them with your doctor. While early stages of cervical cancer may not result in any signs and symptoms, the most common symptoms of advanced cervical cancer are abnormal bleeding or discharge from the vagina, such as bleeding after sex, douching or a pelvic examination.
This month, we hope you will join us in raising awareness for cervical cancer by sharing this information and keeping prevention top of mind!