Cervical cancer awareness month

  • Published
  • By Maj. Cassandra Campbell
  • 23rd Medical Operations Squadron
Approximately 11,000 American women will learn they have cervical cancer throughout the year, and nearly 4,000 will die from an advanced form of the disease.

This January, during Cervical Cancer Awareness Month, the 23rd Medical Group will be focused on educating women about the importance of the Papanicolaou test or commonly know as the Pap test which is a screening tool for cervical cancer/ human papilloma virus and also about the Gardasil vaccine that can further reduce the burden of this devastating disease.

It's the start of a new year and a time many reflect on their health. To start the year right, women are encourage to contact the medical group to schedule a Pap test to check for cervical cancer.

This screening is a crucial part of a woman's health care regimen, yet one that many overlook. It's important to remember that cervical cancer is a preventable disease, as long as it's caught early enough.

While routine Pap tests are the best means of detecting cervical cancer at an early stage, the Gardasil vaccine has the potential to protect men and women from the disease by targeting cancer causing types of the HPV. This is a virus transmitted through sexual contact, and is the single known cause of cervical cancer. Two forms of the virus, HPV 16 and HPV 18, account for about 75 percent of all cervical cancer cases.

The current screening recommendations from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists is to start routine Pap tests at age 21 regardless of age at onset of intercourse. Women ages 21 to 29 will need a Pap test every two years, and women 30 and over will need a Pap and HPV test every three years. Routine Pap tests are no longer needed for women who have had a hysterectomy with the removal of her cervix, if the hysterectomy was done for non-cancerous reasons. There are some women though who will still need to have a Pap test every year.

The Gardasil vaccine is available at the Immunization clinic to males and females ages nine to 26 as a series of three injections given over six months. Gardasil may not fully protect everyone, or protect against diseases caused by other types of HPV. Gardasil does not prevent all types of cervical cancer, so it's important for women to continue Pap tests. Gardasil does not treat cervical cancer.

For more information about cervical cancer screening and the Gardasil vaccine, call the Women's Health clinic at 229-257-7269.