(Chatsworth, Ga.) January is Cervical Health Awareness Month, which brings awareness to issues such as cervical cancer, Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), and the importance of early detection. In the United States alone, nearly 13,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer every year, but with screenings and vaccinations, this disease is preventable.
Cervical cancer is caused by HPV, and HPV is sexually transmitted, said Dr. Joy Nwadike, an obstetrician and gynecologist at Northwest Georgia Womens Care. Cervical cancer screenings with regular pap smears help to identify who has HPV and who is at risk for developing cervical cancer.
There are more than 100 types of HPV and can be contracted and passed on by both men and women. HPV vaccines can help prevent infection from high risk HPV types. The CDC recommends the HPV vaccine for both girls and boys at age 11 or 12, but it is available for anyone through age 26.
A pap smear can find cell changes in the cervix caused by HPV, and a HPV test finds the virus to help physicians know which women are at higher risk for cervical cancer. A pap/HPV co-test is recommended for women age 30 and older.
Both pap smears and HPV vaccines have greatly decreased the number of deaths from cervical cancer, said Dr. Nwadike. It is essential for every sexually active female to have a regular screening starting at 21 years of age.