An estimated 12,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer each year, and about one-third of these will die as a result of the cancer. However, cervical cancer is preventable and treatable with screening and follow-up treatment!
January was named Cervical Health Awareness Month by the American Social Health Association (ASHA) and the National Cervical Cancer Coalition to encourage women to receive regular screenings for cervical cancer and receive the HPV vaccine if eligible.
Although cervical cancer is highly preventable and treatable, it can still be very serious in women who are not vaccinated or screened regularly.
The American Cancer Society recommends that all women should begin cervical cancer screening at age 21. Women aged 21 to 29 should have a Pap test every 3 years. Beginning at age 30, the preferred way to screen it with a Pap test combined with an HPV test every 5 years. This is called co-testing and should continue until age 65. An alternative option for women 30-65 is to continue to receive only a Pap test every 3 years.
Women who are at high risk for cervical cancer because of a compromised immune system may need to be screened more often. They should follow the recommendations of their health providers.
Screening tests offer the best chance to find cervical cancer in its early stages so that treatment may begin. Screening can also actually prevent most cervical cancers by finding abnormal cervical cell changes so that they can be treated before they become cervical cancer.
When found early, cervical cancer is one of the most successfully treatable cancers. In the U.S, the cervical cancer death rate declined by more than 50 percent over the last 30 years. This is thought to be due mainly to the effectiveness of screening with the Pap test.
During the month of January, encourage the women in your life to ask their healthcare provider if they are due for a cervical cancer screening. And, as always, follow the recommendations of your doctor when it comes to screening and prevention of cervical cancer.