Cervical Health Awareness Month
January is Cervical Health Awareness Month.
This month is cervical health awareness month. We wanted to take the opportunity explain the importance of routine screening to protect against cervical cancer.
Did you know that during the 1960s and 1970s cervical cancer was the number one cause of cancer-related death for women in the United States? Fortunately, early detection and improved medical treatment have improved dramatically over the last 50 years, and have helped to reduce the number of women who die from cervical cancer.
In recent years, an average of 13,000 women in the United States are diagnosed with cervical cancer, but when detected early through Pap and HPV tests the disease is almost always treatable and curable.
Protecting cervical health
Because cervical cancer is preventable and treatable when detected early on, getting routine Pap smears and HPV (Human papillomavirus) tests can be a lifesaver. It’s important to stay current with your yearly well-woman checks and annual gynecological exams.
Pap Smear test
The Pap smear is a test that doctors perform to detect precancerous changes in the cervix, which is the lower part of the uterus that opens into the vagina.
Most women who are between the ages of 21 and 65 should get Pap tests as part of routine health care, even if they are not currently sexually active. Women who have gone through menopause and are younger than 65 also need regular Pap tests, however women who have had a complete hysterectomy or are over the age of 65 do not need to have Pap Smears.
To learn more about Pap tests, visit WomensHealth.gov or discuss it with us at your next appointment.
It is important to note that there is no HPV test to determine if Human papillomavirus, which leads to cervical cancer, is present in your body. There is no HPV test to tell you if you have HPV, however there are HPV tests that can be used to screen for cervical cancer. These tests are only recommended for screening in women aged 30 years and older.
Most people with HPV do not know they are infected and never develop symptoms or health problems from it. Some people find out they have HPV when they get genital warts. Women may find out they have HPV when they get an abnormal Pap test result (during cervical cancer screening). Others may only find out once they’ve developed more serious problems from HPV, such as cancers.
The Food and Drug Administration (USFDA) has, in recent years, approved three HPV vaccines that can help to reduce your risk of contracting the virus. The HPV vaccine is recommended for all boys and girls ages 11 or 12 years. Catch-up vaccines are recommended for boys and men through age 21 and for girls and women through age 26, if they did not get vaccinated when they were younger.
You can learn more about the HPV vaccine on the Center for Disease Control (CDC) website.
Be sure to speak with your OB-GYN at your next appointment to learn more about HPV vaccine options and which is best for you and your health profile.
10 Important Cervical Health Facts
Do you have a friend or family member who could use some education about the importance of cervical health? Share these ten facts, and encourage them to make an appointment for their annual screening with their doctor. If they’re in Fort Collins or the surrounding areas and want to make an appointment with one of our doctors, we can be reached at (970) 419-1111. Same day appointments are often available.
Cervical Health Fact #1:
Approximately 13,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer each year. Cervical cancer can occur in all ethnicities and races, and sexual persuasions, so all women are equally at risk.
Cervical Health Fact #2:
Women who are over the age of 40 are at an increased risk for cervical cancer.
Cervical Health Fact #3:
Roughly 99 percent of cervical cancers are caused by the sexually-transmitted human papillomavirus (HPV) virus. The most common strains, HPV 16 and HPV 18, are responsible for close to 70 percent of all diagnosed cases.
Cervical Health Fact #4:
Typically, cervical cancer has no symptoms in the early stages. Due to this lack of noticeable symptoms, routine screening is essential for detection and prevention.
Cervical Health Fact #5:
Cervical cancer is often detected as a result of annual pelvic exams and Pap tests, so don’t skip or “forget” to schedule your yearly exam with your OB-GYN.
Cervical Health Fact #6:
When detected in the precancerous stage, cervical cancer is 100 percent curable with proper medical treatment and follow up visits with your doctor.
Cervical Health Fact #7:
Risk factors for cervical cancer include:
- the HPV virus
- being HIV positive
- being 40 years of age or older
- having sexual intercourse before age 18
- having multiple sexual partners
Cervical Health Fact #8:
Symptoms of cervical cancer in later stages include abnormal bleeding or discharge, and painful sexual intercourse.
Cervical Health Fact #9:
Because strains of the HPV virus can cause cervical cancer, vaccines have been developed to protect women against the strains that lead to cervical cancer. Speak with your doctor to see if you are a good candidate for vaccination.
Cervical Health Fact #10:
Treatment for women diagnosed with cervical cancer includes surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, biological therapy or interferon. Your OB-GYN can assist you in determining the best treatment options in the event you are diagnosed.
Because cervical cancer often has no early warning signs, all women 21 years of age and older and encouraged to get regular exams and screenings including an annual pelvic exam and a Pap test. Women in their 20s should get this test every three years and women in the 30 to 64-year range should have the test every five years as long as their results are normal.
The Voices of Cervical Health
We encourage you to take a few moments and listen to the following interviews from StoryCorps to hear real-life stories of women diagnosed with cervical cancer. These stories are from both cervical cancer survivors and also family members of women diagnosed with cervical cancer.
Kawanza had never heard of HPV before her diagnosis. Listen to her interview to learn more about the disease and ways to promote prevention.
Donna reflects on the death of her daughter from cervical cancer, and her work to raise awareness about this disease.
Shaundra was 28 years old when she diagnosed with cervical cancer. Watch her interview to learn about her experience with cancer treatment.
Sandy reflects on the death of her sister from cervical cancer.
Visleyn reflects on being a young wife and mother, and the toll cervical cancer has taken on her.
Learn More About Cervical Health
Located in Fort Collins, Colo., a Woman’s Healing Center is an OB-GYN and surgical-quality aesthetics practice whose mission is to help women of all lifestyles heal their way to better health and happiness.
We accomplish our mission through deep listening and straight talk. As such we are the only local alternative to corporatized medicine that provides women the specialized knowledge and training of board-certified female-only obstetricians and gynecologists. If you have questions about cervical health, annual exams, pap smear tests, HPV, or any other women’s health issue, we are here for you!
Christine Skorberg, M.D. and Amy Grove, M.D. are dedicated to helping each patient through her life’s journey—from delivering her babies to navigating the changes in her body and emotions, to offering the latest medical-grade procedures for looking and feeling younger. Call our office at (970) 419-1111 to make an appointment today.