January is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month

Cervical cancer used to be the leading cause of death for women in the United States. However, in the last 40 years, the number of cases of cervical cancer and deaths resulting from it has decreased significantly. The decline is largely due to advances in early screening for precancerous cervical changes that can be treated before the cells become cancerous. Cervical cancer, when caught early, is highly treatable. Cervical cancer is almost entirely preventable in most Western countries due to routine screenings and a vaccine to prevent HPV (human papillomavirus) infections which when left untreated can lead to cervical cancer.

HPV is an infection that is thought to be responsible for 90% of cervical and anal cancers, about 70% of vaginal and vulvar cancers, and more than 60% of penile cancers in the United States. Furthermore, recent studies indicate that about 70% of oropharynx (throat) cancers are related to HPV infections. HPV is transmitted by skin to skin contact – not through the exchange of bodily fluids. Approximately 80% of all sexually active people in the United States will have had HPV by the time they are 50 years old. HPV is the most common sexually transmitted illness and there are more than 40 subtypes of the virus that can infect both men and women. Not all subtypes cause cancer, but vaccines are available for both males and females to prevent those that do.

The following steps are the best way to prevent cervical cancer: Get routine screenings as recommended by your provider. Avoid or reduce tobacco use. Know your body. Get vaccinated.

If you would like more information, contact the Richland County Family Planning program at 433-2207. HPV vaccine is available during clinic hours on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays from noon until 4:30pm. Call today!


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