1.19.23 – January is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month

Hi, I’m Dr. Nilesh Kalyanaraman, the Health Officer for Anne Arundel County. Welcome to our Weekly Health Update. January is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month. This week, let’s talk about how prevention and early detection of cervical cancer saves lives.

What should you know about cervical cancer?
Cervical cancer affects women, typically those over the age of 30. HPV, or Human Papilloma Virus, is sexually transmitted and certain types of HPV increase the risk of cervical cancer. Vaccination and screening have led to sharp decreases in the number of women getting cervical cancer.

What should you know about the HPV vaccine?
The HPV vaccine protects against the types of HPV that most often cause cervical cancer. The vaccine series should be started at age 11 or 12, but it can be given starting as early as 9 years old and up to 26 years old. It’s recommended for both males and females.

What should you know about cervical cancer screening?
Cervical cancer can be detected at an early stage through routine screening with a Pap test combined with testing for high risk HPV. A Pap test looks at cells from the cervix taken during a pelvic exam to look for abnormal or cancerous cells. The high risk HPV test looks for types of HPV that cause most cases of cervical cancer. For women at average risk, it’s recommended that they start screening at age 21. Screening is every 3 years in your 20s and every 3 to 5 years from age 30 to 65.

How else can you protect yourself?
Smoking doubles your risk of cervical cancer. If you don’t smoke, don’t start. If you do smoke, quit. Use condoms when you have sex. The Anne Arundel County Department of Health has a program to help you quit smoking for free. We also provide condoms for free. Reach out to us if you need either of those services.

Cervical cancer is a vaccine preventable cancer, so make sure to get your kids vaccinated against HPV.

Stay safe and be kind to yourself and others. We’ll see you next week.

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