Your Cervical Health Matters. Let's Talk About It.
Every woman could benefit from making a New Year’s resolution to talk with their healthcare provider about cervical health. Louisiana has one of the highest cervical cancer death rates in the country, but the truth is cervical cancer is a largely preventable disease. Regular screenings and the HPV vaccine can stop it and other cancers in both men and women.
January is Cervical Health Awareness Month. Each year more than 13,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer and over 4,200 die from it. Not to mention Louisiana has the 6th highest rate of cervical cancer in the U.S. Cervical cancer can be easier to treat when it is found early. This is why it’s important for women between the ages of 21 and 64 to have a cervical cancer screening each year.
How is the screening done?
Your doctor will perform a Pap test. This is a procedure that helps find changes in the cervix that may lead to cancer. Your doctor will take a small sample of cells from the cervix and send it along to a lab for testing.
How long does it take?
A Pap test takes only a few minutes and causes little to no discomfort. It is a safe procedure. Your doctor can answer any questions you might have about the Pap test and tell you how to prepare for the test.
The HPV vaccine can also help prevent cervical cancer. The CDC recommends all boys and girls get the HPV vaccine at age 11 or 12. Up until the age of 14, only two doses of the vaccine are required. The vaccine is available for all males and females through age 45, however, a full three-dose series is required for those 15 and older. Vaccination is not recommended for everyone older than age 26. Talk to your doctor if you are thinking about getting the HPV vaccine or are concerned that you weren’t adequately vaccinated when you were younger.
It is important that you feel comfortable talking to your provider about sexual health, including cervical cancer prevention. These conversations are often rushed and avoided, but they shouldn’t be. The best way to protect yourself against cervical cancer is to talk with your healthcare provider about the prevention tools at your disposal.
For more information about Cervical Health Awareness Month and how you can get involved, visit the National Cervical Cancer Coalition website.