CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. – As most people relate the month of January to a fresh start to work towards their New Year's resolutions; local health experts are resolving to spread more awareness about the risks and prevention of cervical cancer.
January has been designated as Cervical Health Awareness Month by the United States Congress, a time when healthcare professionals and advocacy groups across the nation work to educate women on issues related to cervical cancer, human papillomavirus disease, and the importance of early detection.
"No woman should die from cervical cancer," explained Dr. Waymee Conner of WellSpan OB/GYN - Chambersburg. "Regular screenings mean cervical cancer is highly preventable, and can be cured when found early and treated."
According to the CDC, cervical cancer is almost always caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). Two tests can help prevent cervical cancer or find it early; a pap smear, which looks for cell changes on the cervix that could become cervical cancer if not treated, and the HPV test which looks for the virus that can cause cell changes.
"All women need to be having conversations with their healthcare providers regarding how often they should be screened, and until what age," explained Dr. Conner. "Pap smears and pelvic exams don't take long, but we know they save lives. Also, one of the most important preventative tools for lower genital tract cancers is the HPV vaccine, so not only should women be thinking about getting Pap smears for their own health, but also getting their children of both genders vaccinated starting at ages 11 or 12 before they are even exposed to these various strains of sexually transmitted human papilloma virus."