January is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month
- Human Papillomavirus (HPV) comes in many forms, and is the greatest cause of cervical cancer.
- Nearly 80 million Americans have some form of HPV right now.
- Routine Pap tests are the best way to identify problems before cancer develops.
At the beginning of the year, many people resolve to have better health. Usually this means eating better or exercising or losing weight. But 12,000 women will contract cervical cancer this year, regardless of their diet. Resolving to get a Pap test or to have your children vaccinated for HPV might be a better resolution for 2018.
As January is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month, let’s review some of the facts about HPV:
Almost every sexually active person in the United States will contract some form of HPV in their lifetime. It is very rare for a newborn to contract HPV from its mother, which is why the CDC recommends vaccination at 11 or 12.
HPV can be transmitted by either genital-to-genital contact, genital-to-anal contact or, to a lesser extent, genital-to-oral contact. Male condoms reduce infection, but don’t eliminate chances because they don’t cover all genital surfaces.
Many strains of HPV are harmless, defeated by your normal immune system. Other strains can cause genital warts – which may be single outbreaks while some are chronic. Some strains cause changes to the cells of the cervix. Symptoms may not surface for weeks or years afterward, which is why regular Pap tests for women are so important.
Detected early, cervical precancer is treatable. Some cervical cancer is likewise able to be treated with your healthcare professional. Still, 4,000 women die in the U.S. every year from cervical cancer, most brought on by HPV.
14 million Americans will become infected by some form of the HPV virus this year. There is no treatment for HPV once it is contracted, but the diseases the virus causes are treatable. The virus may remain dormant long after exposure. It often takes years or decades to develop into cervical cancer.
Prevention is always the better alternative to treatment. Be vaccinated if you are a young adult, or have your children vaccinated if you are an older adult.