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January is Cervical Health Awareness Month—a time to talk about the risk of cervical cancer, how it is caused, and how it can be prevented.

More than 13,000 people with a cervix are diagnosed with cervical cancer each year. This type of cancer is caused by certain types of Human Papillomavirus (HPV), the most common sexually transmitted disease. 

“The reason we care [about regular testing for cervical cancer] is because it’s one of the few cancers that we can stop before it even starts,” says Dr. Shane Poulin, MD, PPOSBC.

Cervical cancer takes years to develop, and can be prevented easily with regular screenings for early detection and with the HPV vaccine. 

3 Ways to Help Ensure Cervical Health

  • HPV Vaccine: The HPV vaccine is recommended for children ages 11-12, as it is most effective years before sexual activity begins, but the vaccine is approved for ages 9-45, so even if you didn’t get vaccinated at a young age, you still can. 
  • Regular Screenings: People with cervixes should get wellness exams that include a HPV test, and/or Pap exam to check for any abnormal cells on the cervix that could be precancerous. Your provider will be able to help you determine how often you should go in for a wellness exam. 
  • Use Protection: Condoms and/or dental dams can be used during vaginal, anal, or oral sex to help lower the chances of spreading HPV.

Cervical Cancer Risk 

Besides HPV, there are other things that increase your cervical cancer risk. Things like, a family history of cervical cancer, smoking, other infections such as chlamydia, and even age (the average age that cervical cancer is diagnosed is 48).

Prevention is Key 

All that being said, anyone who has a cervix is at risk for cervical cancer. So, no matter who you sleep with or what your gender identity is, it’s important to take care of your cervical health.

Make sure to schedule a Pap exam and or HPV test. You can schedule your Annual Wellness Visit at your local Planned Parenthood, call (714) 922-4100 to make any appointment. 

Tags: HPV vaccine, cervical cancer, cervical health, preventive health services