Cervical Health Awareness Month

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cervical health awareness month

Cervical Health Awareness Month is a chance to raise awareness about how women can protect themselves from HPV (human papillomavirus) and cervical cancer. HPV is a very common infection that spreads through sexual activity. It’s also a major cause of cervical cancer. Cervical Health Awareness Month takes place in January each year. HPV is represented by the light green awareness ribbon.

Statistics About Cervical Health

About 79 million Americans currently have HPV. Many people with HPV don’t know they are infected. And each year, more than 11,000 women in the United States get cervical cancer.

Infection with HPV causes 5% of all cancers worldwide. Many people know about the link between HPV and cervical cancer, but did you know that HPV also causes at least five other cancers?

The majority of HPV-associated cancers are linked to just two types of HPV: types 16 and 18. There are about 16 high-risk types that have been identified, and there are over 100 different types of HPV overall. 40 HPV strains are sexually transmitted. The term ‘high-risk’ means that these types of HPV are more likely than other types to cause cancer.

Both low-risk and high-risk HPV infections can disappear on their own without causing any damage to the body. The symptoms are abnormal changes in cells and are usually very mild. They often go away even if left untreated. The immune system is often able to attack the virus before it has a chance to cause long-term infection. In fact, people can be totally unaware that they even had symptoms or HPV.

Some high-risk HPV infections can remain in the body for years, however. These longer-lasting infections can lead to more serious changes in cells that may progress to cancer if they are not found and treated.

HPV Vaccines

The HPV vaccine (shots) can prevent HPV.

Cervical cancer can often be prevented with regular screening tests (called Pap tests) and follow-up care. Cervical cancer screenings can help detect abnormal (changed) cells early, before they turn into cancer. Most deaths from cervical cancer can be prevented by regular Pap tests and follow-up care.

How can Cervical Health Awareness Month make a difference?

We can use this opportunity to spread the word about important steps women can take to stay healthy. Here are just a few ideas:

  • Encourage women to get their well-woman visit each year.
  • Let women know that most insurance plans must cover well-woman visits and cervical cancer screening. This means that, depending on their insurance, women can get these services at no cost to them.
  • Talk to parents about how important it is for their pre-teens to get the HPV vaccine. Both boys and girls need the vaccine.
  • (Content: healthfinder.gov Image: gq.com)

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