Cervical Health Awareness Month: Preventing cervical cancer
January is “Cervical Health Awareness Month.”
Cervical cancer affects thousands of women in the United States every year, with the human papillomavirus (HPV) being the leading cause of cervical cancer.
"So it's estimated as many as 90-95 percent of people in the U.S. have a strain of HPV. Some of them never surface, some of them cause warts, some of them cause cancers,” said Nurse Practitioner, Shannon Scott, who works at the UP Health System-Bell location for Marquette Pediatric Specialists.
Scott says the best way to protect against HPV, since it is spread in other ways besides sexual contact, is to get the HPV vaccine.
The vaccine is recommended for both men and women beginning at age 11.
"In the U.S. since we've introduced it, the cervical cancer rates related to HPV have decreased by around 50 percent. In Australia where HPV vaccines are mandated, their HPV-related cervical cancer rates have gone down by around 95 percent,” Scott said.
Another way women can protect themselves against cervical cancer, Scott says, is by getting routine Pap smears beginning at age 21.
"The Pap smear is the test that is typically done at an annual women's exam that screens for cellular changes on the cervix that are indicative of rapid cell proliferation and cancer,” Scott said.
If a Pap test comes back with abnormal cells, Scott says it is relatively easy to remove those cells.
"That's why it is so important to come in for preventative health, so that we can catch things before they are full-blown cancer,” Scott added.