HPV vaccines save lives
January is National Cervical Cancer Awareness Month and according to the American Cancer Society, more than 12,000 women in the U.S. will be diagnosed each year with cervical cancer and nearly 4,000 will die.
The human papillomavirus (HPV) is a risk factor for cervical cancer. Individuals can decrease their risk of getting both HPV and associated cancers by getting the HPV vaccine. HPV vaccines can help prevent infection from both high-risk HPV types that can lead to cervical cancer and low risk types that cause genital warts.
The CDC recommends everyone start to get the HPV vaccine series at age 11 or 12, but it can be given as early as 9. The vaccine produces a stronger immune response when taken during the preteen years. The Food and Drug Administration has expanded the age to get the Gardasil 9 HPV vaccine up to the age of 45.
A pap test can be performed to determine the presence of HPV. It can find cell changes to the cervix caused by HPV. HPV tests find the virus and help healthcare providers know who is at risk for cervical cancer or transmission of the HPV virus to a partner. The CDC recommends patients get their first PAP test at 21. You should ask your health care provider how often you should be screened, and which tests are right for you.
What can you do?
- Make sure you are up to date with immunizations, including the HPV vaccines. Encourage loved ones to do the same.
- Practice safe sex with the use of condoms. If you keep yourself safe, you keep your partner(s) safe.
- Avoid tobacco and smoking, which increases the likelihood of developing cervical cancer.
- Consult with your health care provider about tests and screenings.