Protect Yourself – and Your Children – from Cervical Cancer
This year, The American Cancer Society estimates that nearly 13,000 women in the United States will be diagnosed with cervical cancer—a disease that can almost always be prevented with vaccinations and screenings. Early detection of the disease can increase your chances of treating it successfully, allowing doctors to remove cervical cancer cells before they become dangerous. January, which is Cervical Health Awareness Month, is the perfect time to learn how to protect yourself and your children from cervical cancer.
Two tests every woman needs:
- Pap test (or Pap smear): This test looks for precancerous cells on the cervix that, over time, could potentially become cervical cancer. Most women should get a Pap test every three years, starting at age 21, and can have the test at their OBGYN. Some people may need to get the test done more often than others depending on your age, health history, family history and other risk factors. Talk to your doctor about what is best for you.
- HPV test: This test looks for the Human Papillomavirus, which can ultimately put you at risk for cervical cancer (your doctor can test you for HPV during a Pap test). You can get an HPV test every five years and should start as early as age 30.
There is also an HPV vaccine for males and females which is recommended by the Advisory Committee for Immunization Programs and the American Cancer Society. HPV can be easily acquired through any type of sexual contact, so it’s important to get the vaccination before your child becomes sexual active. The HPV vaccine recommendations have changed. The new recommendations are as follows:
- 9-14 year-old males and females are recommended to have two doses not three.
- 15-21 year-old males and 15-26 year-old females are still recommended to have three doses.
- HPV vaccines aren’t recommended for those older than 26.
For more information about what vaccines you need and when, check out our resource: Immunization At Every Age.
This month and beyond, help spread the word of cervical cancer risks and the important steps women and men can take to be healthy and encourage others to take action by scheduling their tests.
Photo credit: Matthew Kenwrick