January is Cervical Health Awareness Month, and at Hardin Memorial Health we are dedicated to bringing awareness and educating women on ways to prevent cervical cancer.
“Cervical cancer is highly preventable, yet more than 12,000 women are diagnosed with the disease each year,” said Dr. Myra Henderson, obstetrician and gynecologist at HMH.
The leading cause of cervical cancer is a form of human papillomavirus (HPV), a common, sexually transmitted virus that affects both men and woman. Vaccines are available to protect against the high-risk HPV most linked to cancer.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends all children – girls and boys – get the HPV vaccine at age 11 or 12, up to age 26. HMH encourages parents to consult with their pediatrician for more information on the HPV vaccine.
Another highly effective way of preventing cervical cancer is the Pap smear, a screening test typically completed at a woman’s annual appointment with her gynecologist. This test detects precancerous cell changes in the cervix that could lead to cervical cancer. If detected early, precancer can be treated and stopped before turning into invasive cancer.
“All women between 21-65 should have regular screening at intervals determined by their physician because recommendations have changed,” Henderson said. “It is one of the most effective cancer screening tests available.”
Screening tests also are available for HPV, and can be done at the same time as a Pap smear.
For more information on cervical cancer prevention, contact your gynecologist or family medicine provider. If you do not have a provider, click for a list of HMH gynecologists and family medicine providers.