January is the perfect month to take charge of your health and get your preventive screenings!
Approximately 13,000 people in the US will be diagnosed with cervical cancer this year. Early detection is of the utmost importance: If diagnosed in an early stage, survival rates exceed 90 percent.
Here are Planned Parenthood’s current cervical screening guidelines:
- First Pap screening at age 21
- Pap screening every 3 years for ages 21–29
- Pap screening every 3 years for ages 30–64, or every 5 years when those in the latter age group receive combined Pap and HPV tests, and:
- More frequent screenings for those at higher risk
Planned Parenthood encourages everyone over age 21 to talk to a health care provider about cervical cancer screening.
What causes cervical cancer?
Cervical cancer is caused by certain strains of HPV (human papillomavirus), which is an extremely common sexually-transmitted infection. The immune system usually clears HPV from your system on its own. However, a high-risk form of HPV can sometimes lead to cervical cancer in certain people. There is no cure for HPV, but there is treatment for pre-cancerous cell changes caused by HPV.
How can I protect myself from HPV and lower my risk of cervical cancer?
- Use protection during sex. Condoms lower the risk of HPV transmission if they’re used correctly, every time you have sex. However, note that HPV can infect areas not covered by a condom.
- Communicate with your sexual partners about being safe and protecting yourselves. A person can be exposed to HPV during genital skin-to-skin contact just once with someone who has HPV.
- Get regular Pap tests. A Pap test can find abnormal cells in the cervix (caused by HPV) before the cells become cancer.
Planned Parenthood health centers are here for you! If it’s time for your cervical cancer screening, contact us for an appointment.