January is Cervical Health Awareness Month! It may be the end of the month, but it’s important to be aware of cervical health all year long!
What You Should Know:
- The Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI) called HPV (human papillomavirus) is estimated to be involved in over 90% of cervical cancer cases.
- HPV vaccines (Cervarix and Gardasil in the US) protect against two high risk strains of HPV known to cause cervical cancer. In fact, these vaccines may prevent up to 65% of cervical cancers. Gardasil also protects against genital warts, vulvar cancer, vaginal cancer, and anal cancer in women. It also protects men from genital warts and anal cancer. In December 2014, the FDA approved a new version of Gardasil, called Gardasil 9, that protects against the original four strains, plus an additional five. The new vaccine isn’t yet available, but CDC recommendations should be out in February.
- In the US, only about 1/3 of teenage girls have been vaccinated. In comparison, countries like Rwanda, Britain, and Denmark have vaccination rates at or upwards of 80%. Even with the low vaccination rate in the US, infection rates for the strains that cause cancer dropped nearly four percentage points in as many years, from 7.2% to 3.6%.
- Historically, cervical cancer was the leading cause of cancer death for women in the US. Thanks to the widespread use of Pap tests (smears), the number of cases of cervical cancer and deaths from cervical cancer have decreased significantly.
- In 2014, there were 12,360 new cases of cervical cancer. There were 4,020 deaths from cervical cancer.
- Cervical cancer is preventable! By getting regular Pap smears, your provider can detect irregular cells as early as possible!
- The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommend a Pap smear for women starting at age 21.