What you need to know…
With Valentine’s Day over and done, it’s time, as women, to shift our focus to our own health, well-being and self-love. January was Cervical Health Awareness Month so let’s take a moment to talk about this often neglected topic.
THE STATS ON CERVICAL CANCER
Cervical cancer used to be the leading cause of death among American women. Those stats dropped dramatically once pap smears became common practice as these allowed doctors, in many instances, to detect precancerous cells. According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), the mortality rate has declined by 50 percent within the last 40 years. Now, about 12,000 American women are diagnosed with cervical cancer each year and one third of them will unfortunately die from the disease. The ACS reports that most diagnoses affect women aged between 20 and 50. The good news is that if detected early, cervical cancer is highly treatable.
WHAT ABOUT HPV?
Almost all cervical cancers are caused by the sexually transmitted human papillomavirus (HPV). However, being infected with a cancer-causing strain of HPV does not mean you will develop cervical cancer. Your immune system does a pretty good job of eliminating most HPV infections. Patients usually are virus-free within a 2-year period. It’s also worth noting that HPV is very common. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that most sexually active men and women will become infected by HPV during their lifetime.
The good news is that infection from the two most common cancer-causing strains of HPV is preventable by vaccine. Although this vaccine can be effective at all ages, it’s best to receive it prior to becoming sexually active. This is good news for today’s youth and future generations.
While it is primordial to practice safe sex, i.e. wear a prophylactic, HPV can also be transmitted from skin to skin contact.
PROACTIVE STEPS YOU CAN TAKE TODAY
When it comes to your cervical health, early detection is key, so…
Step 1: Be safe
It goes without saying that a healthy sex life, at any stage of life, can be a fundamental part of a person’s experience. But you owe it to yourself to keep your health at the forefront.
Be sure to engage in safe sexual practices, including the wearing of a prophylactic.
Step 2: Get that Pap test done
This simple, albeit slightly uncomfortable test, is key to detecting the precancerous cells that can lead to cervical cancer. Be sure you get one done yearly or every 3 years, if you are with the same sexual partner, no matter your age.
Many cases of cervical cancer can be seen in older, post-menopausal women, as this demographic has been known to not be so vigilant with their gynecological health. So no excuses, whether you are 25 or 75, book a Pap test with your doctor today.
Step 3: Test for HPV
HPV testing is imperative, especially if a Pap test shows an anomaly, even a slight one. HPV has been shown to be high among women in their late 20s, early 30s as well as women 65 and older. Get tested no matter your age.
So, love yourself enough this month and schedule that gynecological exam you may have been putting off. Be your own health advocate and put you and your health first. You will have peace of mind and will be the healthiest, most vital you, you can be.