Each year, 11,000 American women get cervical cancer, and, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, almost every case is caused by HPV, the human papilloma virus.
Seventy-nine million Americans carry the virus and the CDC says, in fact, that most people will get it at some time in their lives. The tendency not to talk about it may stem from the fact that HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection.
Cervical Cancer Deaths Are Preventable
The stakes for bringing this subject out in the open are very high indeed. Because 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.
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.
Women Protect Themselves with Regular Screenings
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 rate of deaths from cervical cancer declined 50% over the past 30 years, mainly because of availability and awareness of Pap tests. This kind of progress proves the importance of regular screening.
Accepting the Rest of the Solution
The HPV vaccine is much earlier in its success story. Although more than 80 million doses of the vaccine have been administered with no serious problems, there are still many millions more people to reach. Probably one factor that slows this solution is that HPV is sexually transmitted and people often feel vulnerable or exposed when they consider discussing it, whether with professionals or even friends.
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.
The Vaccination Does Not Mean Permission
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 January’s Cervical Health Awareness Month.
Schedule Your Well-Woman Exam Now to Begin
Please help spread the word now, as well as during Cervical Health Awareness Month. Bringing light to the subject can give life to many who otherwise might suffer.
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.