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National Cervical Health Awareness Month (January)

When it comes to discussing certain health issues, many people are uncomfortable with topics related to social stigmas, sexual behaviors and mental health. Cervical Cancer is a serious women's health topic that sometimes does not get discussed, related to its connection to sexual behaviors. January is National Cervical Health Awareness month according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Cervical cancer can affect our moms, daughters, sisters, aunts, nieces and spouses; therefore, it needs to be discussed openly.

Each year, about 12,000 women in the United States get cervical cancer and more than 4,000 will die. All women are at risk for cervical cancer. It occurs most often in women over age 30. Since it most commonly takes 10 to 20 years or more to develop, we have to be knowledgeable of what causes cervical cancer as well as the behaviors linked to the risk of getting it. Sexual behaviors of both men and women, as a teenager and in the 20's and 30's, put women at risk of developing this type of cancer after 30.

The human papillomavirus (HPV) is the main cause of cervical cancer. HPV is a common virus that is passed from one person to another during sex. At least half of sexually active people will have HPV at some point in their lives. HPV is spread through skin-to-skin contact, not through an exchange of bodily fluid. Latex condoms can reduce--but not totally eliminate--the risk of HPV transmission. HPV can be contracted from one partner, remain dormant, and then later be unknowingly transmitted to another sexual partner, including a spouse.

Cervical Cancer is preventable. Early detection is key in preventing cervical cancer. Women are checked for cervical cancer through a Pap test, annually, based on their health care provider's recommendations. It may also be helpful to do an HPV test along with a Pap test. Another way to prevent cervical cancer is to prevent HPV transmission. HPV vaccines can help prevent infection from both high risk HPV types that can lead to cervical cancer and low risk types that cause genital warts. There are currently two HPV vaccines available: Gardasil® and Cervarix®. It is recommended that both boys and girls get vaccinated for HPV. Together vaccination and screening can save more lives and suffering.

Information for this article was obtained from the following internet web sites: www.cdc.gov/cancer/cervical/ Centers For Disease Control. www.nccc-online.org National Cervical Cancer Coalition.

Article provided by Community Wellness of Augusta Health. To contact Dana Breeding, RN, related to the information in this article, please call (540) 332-4988 or (540) 932-4988.