Sometimes I chuckle when I see all the days that are recognized as official, fun, crazy and bizarre holidays. For example, in July we will celebrate “Air-Conditioning Appreciation Days”. Yup, you heard me right; and while we are celebrating air conditioning we can also celebrate Family Golf Month, Wheat Month, National “Doghouse Repairs” Month, and National Horseradish Month. I see you are shaking your head and chuckling too.
There are several months however that make me take a moment, bow my head and pray for the good health the Heavenly Father has granted me, and to ask for peace and comfort to the many, many souls who are suffering. January is one of those months. The United States Congress designated January as Cervical Health Awareness Month.
Nearly 13,000 women in the United States are diagnosed with cervical cancer each year, but the disease is virtually always preventable with vaccination and appropriate screening (PAP and HPV tests). We at the Grafton-Taylor County Health Department are all about preventing disease and chronic illness.
Here’s a few things that the CDC and National Cervical Cancer Coalition says you need to know about HPV and Cervical Cancer:
Cervical cancer is highly preventable with regular screening tests and appropriate follow-up care. It can also be cured when found early and treated.
Cervical cancer is almost always caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV).
HPV is very common in the US and is passed from one person to another during sex. Most sexually active individuals have HPV at some point. At any time there are approximately 79 million people in the US with HPV.
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. The CDC recommends the vaccine for all preteens (both boys and girls), aged 11 to 12 years, but can be given as early as age 9 and until age 26.
HPV is usually passed by sexual contact (even without penetration). Studies show that male condoms can reduce HPV transmission to females, although condoms only protect the skin they cover.
A Pap test can find cell changes to the cervix caused by HPV. A Pap/HPV co-test is recommended for women 30 and over. One HPV test has been approved for use as primary cervical cancer screening for women age 25 and older, followed by a Pap test for women with certain results.
There is no treatment for the virus itself, but healthcare providers have plenty of options to treat diseases caused by HPV.
It can take weeks, months, or even years after exposure to HPV before symptoms develop or the virus is detected. This is why it is usually impossible to determine when or from whom HPV may have been contracted.
It can be upsetting when HPV is first diagnosed, but remember that having HPV is normal. There are 14 million new HPV infections in the US each year alone. The HPV vaccine is truly cancer prevention, and by taking advantage of the vaccine available at your local health department you can protect yourself and your children from HPV related cancer.
For more information on HPV, the vaccine, and the Family Planning Clinic available at the Grafton-Taylor County Health Department, please call 304-265-1288. You can also learn more at CDC.gov or www.ASHASexualHealth.org.