One measure of the success achieved by observing Cervical Cancer Awareness Month each January is that the death rate from cervical cancer has gone down by more than 50% over the past 30 years, as reported by the American Cancer Society.
It’s vitally important that we not let that good news lullaby us to sleep, though, because the prevalence of Pap testing is one of the central causes of this reduction, and there is still room for improvement in raising the awareness of the life-saving possibilities of that test. With regular Pap tests beginning at age 21, your physician can detect abnormal cells before they become cancer. Treatment and follow up can then be truly preventative.
The Most Preventable Cancer – If Only We Are Aware
Although the major cause of cervical cancer is widespread, cervical cancer itself is the most preventable form of cancer in women – if it is detected early. So, the stakes for bringing this subject out in the open are very high indeed.
Two lifesavers make prevention possible, regular cervical cancer screenings (called Pap tests) and the HPV vaccine. If only we accept these two solutions, the calamity of cervical cancer could be nearly eliminated.
A New Frontier of Prevention
Each year, 11,000 American women get cervical cancer, and, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, almost every case is caused by HPV – the human papilloma virus.
In fact, the CDC says that most people will get it at some time in their lives, because 79 million Americans carry the virus. The tendency not to talk about it may stem from the fact that HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection.
As a result, there is a lot of missing information, including the fact that both men and women carry the virus, usually without symptoms. So, HPV is carried and transmitted by people unaware.
Silence and suspicion still hinder this highly effective prevention, because it is sexually transmitted. So, people often feel vulnerable or exposed when they consider discussing it, whether with family, professionals, or even friends.
As a result, although more than 80 million doses of the vaccine have been administered with no serious problems, there still are many millions more people to reach.
Best Prevented Before There is Even a Chance
The best time to vaccinate for HPV is before a person becomes sexually active. In fact, the CDC recommends vaccinating boys and girls at age 11 or 12, because teens develop antibodies that can make the vaccine less effective. Clearly, at this age, the vaccination does not mean a green light. Still, it can be difficult for parents to see that taking the initiative early will help protect their child no matter how late in life they begin sexual relations.
The understanding people need to overcome this obstacle is one of the results we seek each year in Cervical Health Awareness Month.
Schedule Your Well-Woman Exam Now to Begin
During Cervical Health Awareness Month. we ask that you help spread the word. The cost of staying silent is too great, and the measures it takes to fight this are readily available.
The peace of mind that comes with prevention can be yours, too. Most insurance plans must pay for well-woman exams and cervical cancer screenings, so if your plan is one of them, then these steps may come with no cost to you. To schedule an appointment with us at Global Family Medicine, call us at 843-815-6468.