January is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month, and Garcia Family Medicine wants to show you how you can protect yourself from cervical cancer by arming yourself with knowledge of the disease that causes almost all cases of cervical cancer.
According to the CDC, the leading cause of cervical cancer is long-lasting infections of the human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV is a sexually transmitted virus, and males often carry no symptoms. Protecting yourself from the virus can be daunting when you never really know if your partners are carriers of HPV.
As a woman, preventing an HPV infection seems nearly impossible, as even practicing safe sex and using condoms can still lead to transmission of HPV.
So, if condoms and safer sex practices won’t protect you from cervical cancer and HPV, you probably wonder what will. Here are a few things you can do to protect yourself and screen for cervical cancer early when you still have a wide variety of treatment options.
The HPV vaccine is recommended for adolescents between 11-12 but can be given as young as nine years old. There are two doses of the vaccine, and the second is given six months after the first dose.
If the vaccine is given after the child turns 15, they will need three doses instead of two, each given over six months.
The HPV vaccine has been monitored for fifteen years and is rated as very safe by the Centers for Disease Control.
Other Risk Factors
While HPV is the leading cause of cervical cancer, other risk factors increase your chances of developing cervical cancer. These include:
- Taking birth control for five years or more
- Giving birth to three or more children
- Having multiple sexual partners
- Being HIV positive
Now that you know what causes cervical cancer and the risk factors, the best thing you can do as an adult is regular screenings. Cervical cancer, when caught early, is highly treatable, and spotting and diagnosing cancer early on gives you the best possible chance for a positive outcome from treatments.
Starting at age 21, women begin getting PAP smears, which check the cervical cells, and now there are screenings specifically for HPV. Talk to your doctor about setting up your PAP smear if you are between the ages of 21- 29 and haven’t had a screening done in the last three years.
Between the ages of 30-65, it is recommended that you get either a PAP or an HPV screening test done every five years.
Dr. Tess Garcia is hosting an educational event at the Blue Springs Mid-Continent Public Library on January 20th from 6:30 – 8:00 PM. Come to hear from a medical professional what steps you can take to protect you and your loved ones from the risks of cervical cancer.
This educational event will be a COVID-compliant event. Please bring a mask and allow space for social distancing while at the event.
If you have immediate concerns or questions, please reach out to Dr. Tess directly at 816-608-5905.