|February 2022 Blog
February is Cervical Health Awareness Month
As Covid cases continue to go up and down like a wild roller coaster, how long will this surreal ride last? Please let me off. I’m done. I never liked this ride from the very beginning. We all hope the current giant hill we are on will be the last and we will no longer feel like we are in danger. I guess that remains to be seen (fingers crossed). Unfortunately, this continual up and down of cases makes a difference to some people whether they go for preventive appointments and/or tests. With February being Cervical Health Awareness Month, it is sadly notable that 26% of women surveyed have not scheduled a cervical cancer screening since the pandemic began. Almost 24% of women aged 40 to 60 say it has been more than 36 months since their last appointment with their OB/GYN provider. That’s not good. These are women who may be at an increased risk for this preventable type of cancer.
- Being over 30 years old and have an HPV (human papillomavirus) infection that hasn’t cleared up.
- HPV is the most transmissible sexual infection in the United States and is now considered a common infection. There are more than 40 types of HPV. Nine out of 10 cervical cancers are caused by HPV and almost all can be prevented by vaccination. Some types of HPV can cause genital warts, but others can cause cervical cancer and certain other cancers (vagina, vulva, penis, anus, back of throat). Vaccines for HPV can help prevent the infections that can lead to these problems. The CDC recommends that girls and boys get the HPV vaccine at age 11 or 12, but you can still get vaccinated all the way up to age 26. It can be weeks or even years after HPV exposure that symptoms develop, making it difficult to know when or whom HPV may have been contacted.
- Having sex at an early age
- Having multiple sex partners
- Not having regular cervical screenings
- Using birth control pills for a long time
- Having a weakened immune system
- Having a close relative who has had cervical cancer, like a mother or sister
- Being exposed to diethylstilbestrol (DES) before birth
Note: Certain precancerous conditions of the cervix usually do not cause symptoms and can only be detected with a Pap test and pelvic exam.
- Increased or unusual discharge from the vagina
- Blood spotting or light bleeding at time other than a normal menstrual period
- Menstrual bleeding that lasts longer and heavier than normal
- Bleeding or pain during or after sex
- Bleeding after menopause
Unfortunately, cervical cancer does not usually show symptoms until in the later stages. Pap tests, pelvic exams and HPV tests are crucial in order for early detection.
Cervical cancer used to be one of the leading causes of death for women. With cervical cancer regular screening, vaccination and follow-up treatment, it is now one of the most preventable cancers out there.
Please make your appointment to get preventive appointments and/or tests scheduled if you’ve been putting them off. With all the measures in place at provider offices and hospital outpatient departments, they are safe places to go for care.
Early detection saves lives.