Bowling Green, OH – January is Cervical Health Awareness Month, and Wood County Health District wants you to know that there’s a lot you can do to prevent cervical cancer.
HPV (human papillomavirus) is a very common infection that spreads through sexual activity. It’s also a major cause of cervical cancer. About 79 million Americans currently have HPV, but many people with HPV don’t know they are infected.
The HPV vaccine (shot) can prevent HPV. The vaccine should be given before an infection occurs, ideally, before a teen becomes sexually active, because the vaccine can’t treat HPV if you already have it. It is recommended that both males and females start the 3-dose HPV vaccine series at age 11 or 12 years but it can be administered through age 26 years for females and through age 21 for males, if not vaccinated previously.
According to the CDC’s 2014 National Immunization Survey, only 35.2% of teen girls aged 13-17 and 23.3% of teen boys aged 13-17 in Ohio have received the recommended 3 doses of the HPV vaccine.
Cervical cancer develops slowly and these abnormal cells are easily detected through regular screening tests (called Pap tests) and can be treated effectively. Left undetected, these abnormal cells can turn into cervical cancer. Cervical cancer screening does not prevent HPV infection, but can prevent most cervical cancer cases and deaths if women with abnormal screening results receive appropriate follow-up and treatment. If a woman’s Pap test shows abnormal results, her healthcare provider may recommend colposcopy to closely examine the cervix, vagina and vulva for signs of disease. If the healthcare provider finds an unusual area of cells during the colposcopy procedure, a sample of tissue can be collected for laboratory testing (biopsy).
In honor of National Cervical Health Awareness Month, Wood County Health District encourages:
- Parents to make sure pre-teens get the HPV vaccine at age 11 or 12 and complete all 3 doses
- Women to start getting regular Pap tests at age 21
Thanks to the health care reform law, you and your family members may be able to get these services at no cost to you. Check with your insurance company to learn more. Taking small steps can help keep you safe and healthy.
If you are looking for a healthcare provider, the Wood County Community Health and Wellness Center is accepting new patients. Services include: primary care, preventive health services, women’s health care (including Pap tests and colposcopy), behavioral health, sexually transmitted infection testing, pediatrics, senior health care, men’s health care and an on-site full-service pharmacy. Call 419-354-9049 to schedule an appointment.