January is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month
Understand the risks, and the steps you can take to prevent this disease.
January is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month. Can you remember when you had your most recent Pap smear or HPV test? Cervical cancer is easy to detect and treat through these important, routine screenings.
You’re at highest risk for getting cervical cancer if one or more of the following applies to you:
- You are a smoker.
- You have HIV or another condition that weakens your immune system.
- You have given birth to three or more children.
- You have had several sexual partners.
The best form of prevention can start during childhood. The HPV vaccine is recommended for girls and boys age 11-12, as HPV infection can occur in both men and women. The HPV vaccine protects against cancers that are caused by HPV infection (including cervical cancer). In fact, the vaccine has the potential to prevent up to 85% of cervical cancers and its precursors. Proven to be very safe and effective (with more than 170 million doses distributed worldwide to date), the HPV vaccine is administered at an age when girls and boys have a better immune response to it, and before they are at risk of being exposed to HPV. It is recommended that women start getting Pap tests (the “Pap smear”) at age 21. Those age 30 and older may also have human papillomavirus (HPV) test, in addition to the Pap test. The HPV test looks for the virus that can cause cell changes on the cervix.
“We know that HPV infection is dangerous – 33,000 people in the U.S. get cancer from HPV every year,” said Rebecca Perkins, MD, MSc, of BMC’s Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology. “HPV currently hurts and kills more Americans each year than all other vaccine-preventable diseases, with the exception of influenza. That’s why getting the HPV vaccine at a young age is so important.”
For those diagnosed with cervical cancer, there is hope. The good news is, when found in its early stages, cervical cancer is highly curable and the outlook for survival is very good. At BMC, the team uses the latest tools and state-of-the-art techniques to diagnose and treat cervical cancer. In addition to physicians who are at the forefront of treatment for cervical cancer, BMC also offers patients access to cutting edge clinical trials for HPV-related disease, as well as dedicated patient navigators who can provide a one-to-one connection through all stages of the healthcare process.
To learn more about the Cancer Care Center at BMC, please call 617.638.6428 or visit the Center’s website.