HPV vaccine, Pap tests are key to good cervical health
What’s more, there are about 14 million new infections each year.
Here’s another statistic: Each year, HPV causes about 33,700 new cancers. And the HPV vaccine can prevent about 31,200, which is nearly 93 percent of them, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
HPV can evolve into cervical cancer in women as well as a variety of cancers in men.
The HPV vaccine, which is available at Monongalia County Health Department, is ideally is given to both girls and boys at around age 11 or 12, before they even become sexually active and have the opportunity catch HPV.
Getting the HPV vaccine is just one way to observe Cervical Health Awareness Month, which takes place in January.
In fact, the HPV vaccine helps prevent other types of cancers, including:
• cancers of the vagina and vulva in women (in addition to cervical cancer);
• cancers of the penis in men; and
• cancers of the anus and back of the throat, including the base of the tongue and tonsils (oropharynx), in both women and men.
While the goal is to give the HPV vaccine to girls and boys at around ages 11 or 12, it can be administered up through the age of 46 to both women and men. Until last fall, the age limit was 26 but the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) broadened the range on Oct. 5, 2018.
The HPV vaccine is a great way to help children avoid these types of cancers when they become adults. Once a woman turns 21 at least through the age of 65, it’s also important for her to get screened for cervical cancer through the Pap test.
The Pap test looks for cellular changes in the cervix that could evolve into cancer. Woman with normal results generally should get the test every three years, although health care providers can offer a more specific schedule to suit each individual’s situation.
At the same time, the cells collected during the Pap test can be tested for HPV so that it can be monitored and treated.
In this day and age, there is no reason why any women should go without testing. To make things easier, MCHD Clinical Services is a participant in the West Virginia Breast and Cervical Cancer Screening Program.
The WVBCCSP provides clinical breast examinations, mammograms and Pap tests for eligible women, as well as diagnostic testing for women whose screening outcome is abnormal. The program helps woman who are uninsured or underinsured who meet income guidelines.
Because the early stages of cervical cancer often do not cause symptoms in women, these preventative measures are important to take. In the latter stages of the disease, a woman might experience bleeding or discharge that is not her period.
Other ways to lower the risk of cervical cancer is to avoid using tobacco products, use condoms during sex and limit the number of sexual partners.
Cervical cancer and others caused by HPV are very easy to prevent. Cervical cancer also can be detected early and often treated successfully. Follow these steps so you can be around to celebrate Cervical Health Awareness Month for years to come.
And to make an appointment for an HPV vaccine or a Pap test, call MCHD Clinical Services at 304-598-5119.