Health & Wellness from Carol

January is Cervical Health Awareness Month

More than 12,000 women in the United States will be diagnosed with cervical cancer each year, and more than 4,000 will die.
Cervical cancer is the second most common type of cancer for women worldwide, but because it develops over time, it is also one of the most preventable types of cancer.

Cervical cancer is cancer that starts in the cervix, the narrow opening into the uterus from the vagina. Human papillomavirus (HPV) is found in about 99% of cervical cancers. HPV is estimated to be the most common sexually transmitted infection in the United States.

Most adults have been infected with HPV at some time. An infection may go away on its own. But sometimes it can cause genital warts or lead to cervical cancer. You may be more likely to develop cervical cancer if your immune system is weakened by another health condition and you have HPV. Smoking is associated with squamous cell cervical cancer.

Precancerous cervical cell changes and early cancers of the cervix generally do not cause symptoms. These conditions are completely curable when followed up and treated properly. For this reason, regular screening through Pap and HPV tests can help catch precancerous cell changes early and prevent the development of cervical cancer.

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. Males are at risk for HPV, too. HPV vaccination can protect males against genital warts, anal cancer and oral and throat cancer.

The CDC recommends all boys and girls get HPV vaccine at age 11 or 12. The vaccine produces a stronger immune response when taken during the preteen years. Young women and men can get the vaccine up to age 26. Tested in thousands of people in many countries, both vaccines have proven to be safe and well tolerated; the most common side effect has been soreness at the injection site.