By Dr. Lillian Schapiro, Kathryn Garren and Ashlee Forrester
Good news for the new year! January is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month, and we are winning the battle against cervical cancer.
Cervical cancer affects the female reproductive system and is most commonly caused by the human papillomavirus or HPV. While cervical cancer affects females directly, males play a part in the transmission of HPV. Regardless of your gender, you should take steps to protect yourself from HPV.
HPV is a DNA virus from the papillomavirus family. It can be passed from one person to the next with sexual or oral contact. As recently as the 1940s, cervical cancer was a major cause of death among women in the United States. However, with the introduction of routine Papanicolaou (Pap) smears in the 1950s, the incidence of invasive cervical cancer has declined dramatically. In fact, between 1955 and 1992, U.S. cervical cancer incidence and death rates declined by more than 60 percent, according to a report by the National Institutes of Health.
Cervical cancer is the only cancer that can be prevented with vaccination. The HPV vaccine is recommended for both men and women until the mid-40s. Likely, you received this vaccination as part of your routine care before heading to college. With or without the vaccination, you should still take steps to protect yourself as the vaccine only prevents nine of the over 100 types of HPV. It protects you from those most likely to cause cancer, but it is not foolproof.
The only way to protect yourself 100 percent from the transmission of HPV and other STDs is by practicing safe sex with the use of condoms and limiting the number of sexual partners you have. It is recommended that women visit their healthcare provider annually for routine gynecologic screenings. Protect yourself and schedule an appointment with your healthcare provider to ensure a happy and healthy new year!
Schedule an appointment with your healthcare provider for your annual exam and to discuss the prevention of HPV.
If you haven’t already, get the HPV vaccine.
Use condoms with all sexual activity — oral, vaginal or anal.
Limit your sexual partners.