As designated by the United States Congress, January is Cervical Health Awareness Month. Over 13,000 women in America are diagnosed with invasive cervical cancer (cancer that spread from the cervix surface to tissue deeper within the cervix or other body parts) every year. More than 4,200 die from the disease. Cervical cancer is preventable with appropriate screenings and vaccination.
HPV vaccines can help to prevent infection from low risk HPV types that cause genital warts and high risk HPV types that could lead to cervical cancer. All children are recommended by the CDC to receive the HPV vaccine by age 11 or 12. The vaccine creates a stronger immune response if taken within the preteen years. Due to this, children up to age 14 only require two doses of the vaccine. HPV vaccines are available for adults up to age 45, persons of age 15 and older have to receive a full three-dose series.
Pap tests can find cervix cell changes caused by HPV. HPV and Pap tests, either one or both, are recommended for women over age 30. Each individual should ask their healthcare provider how often they should be screened and what tests are right for them.