Cervical Health Awareness Month, celebrated every year in January, reminds women and those with cervixes to prioritize their health. This month, we acknowledge the prevalence of cervical cancer, which is one of the leading causes of cancer-related deaths among women around the world (World Health Organization).
That statistic can seem scary. But cervical cancer is one of the few cancers that’s almost totally preventable, and over the past few years, the rate of death from cervical cancer has dropped significantly.
As a health care provider, I really want to uplift how important cervical health is. Believe it or not, cervical cancer often sneaks in without any warning signs. That’s why keeping up with your Pap smears is essential. It’s like taking the wheel of your health and wellness – staying in the loop about those results means you’re actively steering your well-being in the right direction.
PPNCSNJ has various services that can help you maintain your cervical health, including:
- Cervical cancer screening
- HPV vaccine
- STI testing
What’s a cervix?
A cervix is a cushion of tissue that sits at the top of the vaginal canal, between the vagina and the uterus. Think of the uterus like it’s an upside-down pear — the cervix is the smaller end of the pear. It plays an important role in pregnancy, birth, and menstruation, and it also acts as a barrier to prevent bacteria from getting into the uterus.
Cervical Cancer Screening
As its name suggests, cervical cancer is cancer of the cervix. It’s caused by some types of HPV, a common STI. Cervical cancer symptoms are hard to notice, but tests can find abnormal cells before they become cancer. Regular check-ups are the best way to avoid cervical cancer.
Cervical cancer screening is used to find infections or abnormal cells in the cervix that could lead to cancer. Pap tests and HPV tests are two kinds of cervical cancer screening. A Pap test, sometimes called a Pap smear, finds abnormal cells caused by HPV — it doesn't directly test for cancer or HPV. An HPV test finds high-risk types of HPV that can lead to cancer.
Both of these tests are simple and fast, and you can get them at all of our health centers across New Jersey.
The HPV vaccine is a proactive and preventive measure against HPV and cervical cancer. PPNCSNJ also offers this vaccine at some of our health centers. All people ages 9 to 45 can get the HPV vaccine to protect against HPV-related cancer.
Outside of HPV, other sexually transmitted infections (STIs), such as HIV and chlamydia can increase the chances of developing cervical cancer. Getting STI tested can help reduce the risk of developing cervical cancer.
STI testing is quick and easy, and it usually doesn’t hurt. There’s no single test for all STIs — each one has its own test. A provider at your local PPNCSNJ health center can help you figure out which tests you need.
Our Commitment to Cervical Health Beyond the Health Center
Our commitment at PPNCSNJ to cervical health goes beyond medical services. With our Education Team, we work to create a supportive environment where our patients and community members can ask questions and feel empowered to make informed decisions about their reproductive health.
PPNCSNJ is a reliable partner for women and people with cervixes seeking reproductive health care. During Cervical Health Awareness Month and every month, we’re here for you — no matter what.