Early detection is the key to treating advanced cervical cancer, which is a preventable cancer. January is Cervical Health Awareness Month and serves as a reminder to women everywhere to get a checkup.
The National Cervical Cancer Coalition (NCCC) provides these facts about HPV/Cervical Cancer:
“Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the name of a group of viruses that infect the skin. There are more than 100 different types of HPV. Some types of genital HPV may cause genital warts, while other types of genital HPV are linked to abnormal cell changes on the cervix (detected through Pap tests) that can lead to cervical cancer. However, this cancer can almost always be prevented through regular screening and, if needed, treatment of abnormal cell changes.”
It is also noted that most people with HPV do not know that they are infected and cervical cancer most commonly takes 10 to 20 years or more to develop. Human papillomavirus (HPV) infections are recognized as the cause in nearly all cervical cancers, as well as a few other types of cancer.
The NCCC website also provides a list of myths and facts about HPV and cervical cancer to clear up any misconceptions. One of these myths is that older women do not need to see a gynecologist for a Pap screening. In fact, “one in four cases of cervical cancer, and 41% of deaths, occur in women age 65 and older.” Because HPV can recur after years of latency it is advised that women still talk to their doctor about Pap screenings.
Updated guidelines have changed the age and frequency when women may get Pap tests and HPV tests. It is now recommended that women with normal test results can have a Pap test once every three years. The HPV tests find “high risk” types of HPV that may lead to cervical cancer.
As with all cancers, a caregiver can provide much needed support when a friend or family member has been diagnosed and is going through treatment. This type of care may mean helping with daily needs such as going to doctor visits, making meals, picking up medicines in addition to helping the person with cancer cope with their feelings during this time.
The American Sexual Health Association has a Ten Things to Know About HPV fact sheet for anyone with questions about cervical health, and includes a section for those in need of support.
While making your New Year resolutions, schedule a checkup with your primary care provider or gynecologist as soon as possible to eliminate any concerns over this preventable cancer.