January is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month, and the initiative is high to get the word out about the importance of early detection – the key for the prevention and treatment of the disease.
Once a leading cause of cancer-related death for women in this country, screening and prompt treatment have significantly reduced the impact of the disease. Still, according to the National Cancer Institute, an estimated 14,500 women in the United States were diagnosed with cervical cancer and more than 4,200 lost their lives to it last year.
So, what is cervical cancer? It’s a disease where cancer cells occur in the cervix, which connects the uterus to the vagina. There are usually no signs or symptoms of early cervical cancer, but it can be detected – even at the earliest stages – with regular check-ups, including Pap and Human papillomavirus (HPV) tests.
Regular Pap tests can catch the disease at the precancerous stage. The medical community recommends that women begin screening with this test at the age of 21 with follow-up screenings every three years.
HPV, a sexually transmitted disease, is almost always the cause of cervical cancer. When a woman is infected with HPV, abnormal cells develop in the lining of the uterus, if not caught in early stages. It’s important to note that HPV testing can be done at the same time as a Pap test for a double dose of security and prevention. Vaccines against the HPV virus are an important part of cervical cancer prevention strategies; currently, three vaccines have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
We understand that it’s not easy or comfortable to talk about sensitive subjects like sexually transmitted disease, but without the proper medical advice and treatment, cervical cancer – which is highly treatable if caught early – could result in a life-threatening situation.
Want more information or need to talk? Call us at 617-427-1000.