Mind and Body: January is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month

Published 7:47 am Monday, January 23, 2017

By Sheila Doyle, RN

Cancer Screening Nurse Case Manager

No woman should die of cervical cancer. You can help prevent cervical cancer by getting screened regularly, starting at age 21.

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This month offers an opportunity to raise awareness about how women can protect themselves from cervical cancer.

Cervical cancer is highly preventable with regular screening tests and appropriate follow-up care. It can also be cured when found early and treated.

Cervical cancer is almost always caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). Vaccines are available to protect against these types of HPV that most often cause cervical cancer.

HPV is very common in the United States and is passed from one person to another during sex. It is so common that nearly all sexually-active men and women get it at some point in their lives, but few women will get cervical cancer.

Two screening tests can help prevent cervical cancer or find it early:

— The Pap test (or Pap smear) looks for precancers, which are cell changes on the cervix that might become cervical cancer if they are not treated appropriately.

— The HPV test looks for the virus that can cause these cell changes.

The Pap test is recommended for women between the ages of 21 and 65, and can be done in a doctor’s office or clinic. If your Pap test results are normal, your health care provider may say you can wait three years until your next Pap test.

If you are 30 years old or older, you may choose to have an HPV test along with the Pap test. Both tests can be performed by your health care provider at the same time.

If both your Pap test and HPV test results are normal, your chance of getting cervical cancer in the next few years is very low. Your health care provider may then say you can wait as long as five years for your next screening.

Keep in mind whether or not your Pap smear is due, you always need to continue getting your yearly gynaecological examinations.

Women with low income or do not have health insurance may be able to get a free or low-cost Pap test through the Kentucky Women’s Cancer Screening Program at your local health department.

Get the HPV vaccine if you are in the age group for which it’s recommended. The HPV vaccine protects against the types of HPV that most often cause cervical, vaginal and vulvar cancers. It is recommended for preteens (both boys and girls) aged 11 to 12 years, but can be given as early as age 9 and until age 26.

Make an appointment today for your child’s HPV vaccination. If you don’t have insurance or your insurance does not cover vaccines, your health department may be able to provide help thru the Kentucky’s Vaccine Program for Children.

For more information how you can get your Pap smear test or HPV vaccine, call the Clark County Health Department at 744-4482.

Remember, prevention is key.

Visit the Clark County Health Department website at www.clarkhealthdept.org. Information from www.cdc.gov and www.cancercenter.com