Published: January 4, 2019
Many young women are missing the opportunity to be screened for cervical cancer. As January is National Cervical Cancer Awareness Month, WHA would like to remind you of the importance of cervical cancer prevention and early detection. Cervical cancer, which forms in the tissues of the cervix (the organ connecting the uterus and vagina), is almost always caused by human papilloma virus (HPV) infection, which is spread through sexual contact.
Women with early cervical cancers and pre-cancers usually have no symptoms. When cervical cancer is diagnosed early, when it has not spread, the 5-year survival rate is 92%. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends that most women ages 21 to 65 get a Pap test once every three years. Women ages 30 to 65 may wait five years between Pap tests if they are tested for HPV at the same time.
HPV is the cause of most cases of cervical cancer, which is why getting this vaccination is so important. The American Cancer Society recommends that the vaccine series be started at age 11 to 12, or as early as age 9.
To protect yourself from HPV and cervical cancer:
- Have regular Pap tests
- Get the HPV vaccine
- Use condoms and limit your number of sexual partners
- Don’t smoke
- Eat a diet high in fruits and vegetables
- Maintain your proper body weight
Note: The HPV vaccine is not just for girls and young women – it is also recommended for males 11 to 12. The ACS recommends females 13-26 years old and males 13 to 21 years old who have not started the vaccines or have not completed the series have the vaccination. For more information, visit mywha.org/womenswellness and cancer.org.