Cervical Cancer Awareness Month encourages steps to prevention
HURRICANE, W.Va. -- January is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month.
In recognition of this, the West Virginia Immunization Network encourages West Virginians to take steps to prevent cervical cancer.
Approximately 12,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer, and more than 4,000 die as a result, in the United States each year. In both the U.S. and around the world, cervical cancer disproportionately impacts poor women. This is exemplified in Appalachia, particularly in West Virginia, where the state has the second highest incidence rate of cervical cancer in the nation.
Vaccines are available to prevent infection from the Human Papillomavirus (HPV), the virus that causes most forms of cervical cancer. The HPV vaccine is effective in preventing the types of HPV that cause cervical cancer if the individual receives all three doses of the vaccine before they are ever exposed to the virus. This is why the vaccine is recommended for adolescents at the age of 11-12 years. HPV vaccination at this age provides the best chance of preventing cervical cancer through adulthood. However the vaccine is also recommended for females through age 26 years and for males through age 21 years who have not previously been vaccinated.
The HPV vaccine can be obtained from your health care provider, health department, community health center, or school-based health clinic. Individuals under 19 years of age who are uninsured, underinsured, or eligible for Medicaid qualify for vaccines from the Vaccines for Children (VFC) program.
For women 21-65 years or age, regular cervical cancer screening can also help prevent cancer. The Pap test detects precancers, which are cell changes on the cervix that might become cancerous if they are not treated appropriately. Women should start getting Pap tests at age 21 and every 3 years thereafter. Women who are 30 years of age or older may choose to have an HPV test along with the Pap test.
Additional information about cervical cancer and methods of preventing it can be found at: www.cdc.gov/cancer/cervical/.
To learn more about the West Virginia Immunization Network or vaccine-preventable diseases, visit www.immunizenow.org or call 304-397-4071.