January is Cervical Health Awareness Month. Each year, more than 11,000 women in the United States get cervical cancer.
HPV (human papillomavirus) is a very common infection that spreads through sexual activity. HPV causes almost all cases of cervical cancer. About 79 million Americans currently have HPV and many people with this infection do not know they have it. HPV can be passed from person to another without any signs or symptoms. In Nevada, cervical cancer and throat cancer are the most common cancers caused by HPV.
There is a lot one can do to prevent cervical cancer.
The HPV vaccine (shot) can prevent HPV. Vaccination prevents 90 percent of cancers caused by HPV. Currently, only 51 percent of those eligible are vaccinated.
Prevention also occurs with regular screening tests and follow-up care. Screening tests include Pap tests, also called Pap smears and/or HPV tests. These tests can help find cells that are infected with HPV. The tests can find other abnormal cells before they turn into cervical cancer.
How often you need to get screened depends on how old you are and what screening tests you get.
If you are age 21 to 29, get screened with a Pap test every three years.
If you are age 30 to 65, you have three options:
Get screened every three years with a Pap test.
Get screened every five years with an HPV test.
Get screened every five years with both a Pap test and an HPV test.
If you are age 66 or older, ask your doctor if you need to continue getting screened for cervical cancer
Talk with your doctor about which option is right for you. Some women might need to get screened more often. A doctor might recommend screening more often if you have had an abnormal test results in the past.
You and your family members might be able to get screening tests and vaccinations at no cost to you. Check with your insurance company to learn more. The Vaccines for Children (VFC) program helps families of eligible children who might not have access to vaccines. The program provides vaccines at no cost to children ages 18 years and younger who are uninsured, Medicaid-eligible or American Indian/Alaska Native.
In honor of National Cervical Health Awareness Month, Carson City Health and Human Services wants you to know:
Women need to start getting regular cervical cancer screenings at age 21.
Two doses of the HPV vaccine are recommended for all boys and girls at ages 11 or 12. Prevention works when vaccination occurs before they are exposed to a disease.
HPV vaccination is recommended for everyone through age 26 years if not vaccinated already.
Those 27 through 45 years of age who are not already vaccinated are encouraged to speak with their doctor. Ask about the risk for new HPV infections and the possible benefits of vaccination.
Taking small steps can help keep you safe and healthy. For resources and information about Carson City Health and Human Services programs and services, check out our website at www.gethealthycarsoncity.org, “like” us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/cchhs, follow us on Twitter at @cchealthed, call us at 775-887-2190 or visit us at 900 E. Long St. in Carson City.