We start off 2009 on the right foot by recognizing January as Cervical Health Awareness Month. And honey, there’s nothing more important than your health! Last year, over 11,000 women in the U.S. were diagnosed with cervical cancer. The good news is that with the proper screening tools and early detection, almost 100 percent of cervical cancer cases can be prevented. Over the last fifty years, routine PAP test screening has reduced cervical cancer deaths by 74 percent in the United States.
This month and every month, here are the ways to protect yourself.
- Learn about cervical cancer Education is key and what we don’t know is killing us! Learn about the risks and warning signs of cervical cancer and make sure all the women in your life are educated, too. Make a list of questions for your physician before going to your gynecologic appointment so you are always in control of your body.
- Have a regular PAP test The PAP test is a simple and effective screening tool for cervical cancer. Women should begin having PAP tests and pelvic exams yearly at age eighteen or within three years of the start of sexual activity, in addition to scheduled check-ups with their physicians.
- Minimize your risk You can prevent most pre-cancerous cells of the cervix by avoiding exposure to HPV, a group of viruses commonly transmitted through sexual contact. Remember, a person can have HPV without symptoms and pass it on without any knowledge, so ask for an HPV test at your next gynecologic exam.
- Be vaccinated The HPV vaccine is recommended for women ages nine through twenty-six and protects against the virus that causes almost all cervical cancers and other less common genital cancers like cancers of the anus, vagina, and vulva. Vaccination plus routine PAP tests will be your best protection against cervical cancer.
- Stop smoking Smoking truly affects all aspects of your health and should always be avoided. When it comes to cervical cancer, the answer is no different. Women who smoke are twice as likely to get cervical cancer. So be a good mamma to your lungs, they’re trying to do a good job for you!