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January is Cervical Health Awareness Month

Do you have a cervix? If so, that means you are at risk of getting cervical cancer. The good news is that cervical cancer is highly preventable and treatable. Typically abnormal cervical cells, that cause cervical cancer, develop over several years which provides ample time to detect and treat.

With access to information, routine gynecology care, and preventive services, most cases of the disease can be prevented and successfully treated at an early stage. If caught early before the cancer has spread, the five-year survival rate is over 90 percent.

January has been designated as Cervical Health Awareness Month to help raise awareness about cervical health, HPV, and the importance of early detection through regular cervical cancer screenings.

For women in the United States, cervical cancer was once a leading cause of cancer death. Today, the impact of cervical cancers has been greatly reduced due to screening and prevention. However, in the United States nearly 14,100 women received a diagnosis of cervical cancer and 4,300 died from the disease last year, according to the National Cancer Institute.

Early-detection and screening are key components for prevention and treatment of cervical cancer. Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection causes almost all cases of cervical cancer. The vast majority of HPV cases can be prevented with vaccines that protect against the virus. Moreover, cervical cancer can be caught and treated at the precancerous stage with regular Pap tests.

What is Cervical Cancer?

Cervical cancer is a disease in which cancer cells arise in the cervix, which connects the uterus to the vagina. HPV, a common sexually transmitted infection that rarely shows symptoms and is usually harmless, is almost always the cause of cervical cancer. Most people will get HPV in their lifetime and the HPV infection usually goes away on its own without causing any damage. However, certain types of HPV can eventually lead to cervical cancer.

Who Gets Cervical Cancer?

Although almost no one should die from the disease, women of color, women living in poverty, and those without health insurance are more frequently diagnosed with cervical cancer and die at a higher rate than others. There are racial disparities in cervical cancer diagnoses and deaths in the US. Latinas are diagnosed more frequently with cervical cancer and black women die of the disease at a higher rate than other races. In the state of Georgia, black women are almost one and a half times as likely to die of cervical cancer as white women, are more likely to have never been screened for cervical cancer, are diagnosed at a later stage, and have lower five-year survival rates.

Get Screened for Cervical Cancer

Cervical cancer is one of the most treatable forms of cancer if detected early. A simple pap test can detect the disease since it develops slowly. Usually, doctors recommend that women get a pap test every one to three years. However, some women have medical conditions or health histories that may require more frequent testing. Talk to your doctor about getting screened for cervical cancer.

Be proactive about Cervical Health

If you have a cervix then you need to be vigilant against cervical cancer. Vaccination, STD testing, and regular screening are all easy steps that can have huge benefits to your lifelong health. Cervical cancer is preventable and treatable, so get tested and screened today!

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