January is Cervical Health Awareness Month, and Knoxville Hospital & Clinics wants you to know that there’s a lot you can do to prevent cervical cancer, as well as the spread of the Human Papillomavirus (HPV).
It isn’t clear what causes cervical cancer, but researchers are certain that HPV plays a role. HPV is very common, and most women with the virus never develop cervical cancer. This means other factors – such as your environment or lifestyle choices – also determine whether you’ll develop cervical cancer.
Each year, more than 11,000 women in the United States get cervical cancer.
9 things you should know about Human Papillomavirus (HPV)
- HPV is more common than you may think. More than 20 million Americans are infected with HPV, making it the single most common sexually transmitted disease in the United States.
- HPV infects both women and men. Although HPV most commonly infections women, certain men are more likely to develop HPV-related cancers. Men with weak immune systems who get infected with HPV are more likely to develop HPV-related health problems.
- You don’t need to have intercourse to get HPV. HPV is transmitted through skin-to-skin contact.
- Not all types of HPV cause cancer. HPV is a group of more than 100 different viruses. Some are high-risk strains associated with cancer; others are low-risk types. The strains considered high risk are types 16 and 18, which together represent 5 percent of all cancer cases worldwide.
- There is a vaccine, but no cure for HPV. The types of HPV that cause genital warts and cervical cancer can be managed, but not cured. While there is a vaccine that greatly reduces the risk of HPV, it cannot neutralize the virus in people already infected.
- Most people with HPV do not have symptoms. Most people have no signs of infection and may only become aware of the condition if they have an abnormal Pap smear result.
- The HPV vaccine does not protect against all strains. The three HPV vaccines approved for use in the U.S. can protect against some, but not all strains. These vaccines protect against two to five of the most common types.
- HPV testing is different for women and men. The HPV test can be performed in women along with a Pap smear during a gynecological exam. As for men, there is currently no HPV test available for genital HPV.
- HPV vaccination is not just for young people. The CDC recommends HPV vaccination for all boys and girls at the age of 11 or 12. They also endorse its use in females ages 13 through 26 and males ages 13 through 21 years who have not been previously vaccinated. But, just because you’re over age 26 doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get vaccinated. Certain at-risk individuals should get vaccinated after age 26.
The good news?
- The HPV vaccine (shot) can prevent HPV.
- Cervical cancer can often be prevented with regular screening tests and follow-up care.
In honor of National Cervical Health Awareness Month, Knoxville Hospital & Clinics encourages:
- All women to get their well-woman visit this year. (Most insurances plans must cover well-woman visits and cervical cancer screening. This means that, depending on their insurance, women can get these services at no cost to them.)
- Women to start getting regular cervical cancer screenings at age 21
- Parents to make sure pre-teens get the HPV vaccine at age 11 or 12
- Teens and young adults to get the HPV vaccine if they didn’t get it as pre-teens. Women up to age 26 and men up to age 21 can still get the vaccine.
We’re here for you.
To schedule your well-woman exam or receive an HPV vaccine, contact Knoxville Hospital & Clinics (KHC) primary care clinic at 641-842-7211
If you’re living with cervical cancer, consider participating in KHC’s Cancer Program to receive exceptional care close to where you live. Learn more about KHC’s Cancer Program.
Article resources: U.S. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion; Mayo Clinic, Cervical Cancer; The National Cervical Cancer Coalition
The information on this blog is provided for general information purposes and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, care, treatment or evaluation; nor should it be used in diagnosing a health condition. You are encouraged to consult your health care provider if you or a family member has or suspect you have a medical problem.