Each year in the US approximately 12,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer, and more than 4,000 lives are lost as a result. What makes this such a tragic statistic is the fact that cervical cancer can be prevented through vaccines and regular screenings in almost every case. That’s the all-important message to spread during Cervical Health Awareness Month, which takes place every January.
How does a vaccine help prevent cervical cancer? By blocking the Human Papillomavirus (HPV), a common infection that almost everyone who is sexually active will have at some point. We now know that cervical cancer is caused by specific strains of HPV, and as a result, researchers have determined that you can help prevent this life-threatening form of cancer by working to prevent the preceding infection.
The three-part HPV vaccine (marketed under the brand names Cervarix and Gardisil) is available for women age 26 and younger. If you’re within the eligible range and interested in learning more, talk to your doctor about the costs, details and scheduling of this vaccination, which takes place over the course of six months and is now covered by a majority of insurers. What if you’re older than 26? You can stay vigilant by getting regular Pap exams (recommended from age 21 and up) and taking an HPV test when recommended. That way, you can catch any infections or signs of cancer early, and get treated promptly.
Beyond raising awareness about prevention, there’s also the importance of information and support for those affected. Have you tested positive for HPV or been diagnosed with cervical cancer? Connect with others like you – including our 48 members with HPV and 44 members with cervical cancer – at PatientsLikeMe today.