January is Cervical Health Awareness Month. As a leading women’s healthcare provider, advocate, and educator, we want to make sure women are properly informed on how they can protect themselves from cervical cancer.
Every year, about 12,000 women in the U.S. are diagnosed with cervical cancer, and roughly 4,000 women die of the disease. The good news is cervical cancer is almost entirely preventable.
The best way to prevent cervical cancer is through the human papillomavirus vaccine (HPV), which protects women from HPV. There are many types of HPV and a few strains can lead to cervical cancer as well as other cancers. The HPV vaccine is FDA approved and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has included it in its list of recommended vaccines for girls aged 11 to 12 years old.
Even though the HPV vaccine is recommended to 11 to 12 year old girls, the vaccines can be administered to women up to age 26. It is ideal to receive the HPV vaccine before skin to skin contact, because although HPV is a sexually transmitted infection (STI), sexual intercourse is not necessary for exposure and infection.
What if you never received the HPV vaccine before age 25? Pap tests are needed to help detect any precancerous or abnormal cells that could lead to cervical cancer. For women aged 21 to 64, routine Pap testing is crucial for detecting cervical cancer at its earliest, most treatable stage — most often before cancer even develops. When caught early, the five-year survival rate is nearly 100 percent.
It is recommended that most women between 21 to 29 be screened with a Pap test every three years. For women aged 30 to 64, most should have routine screenings performed every three years using Pap testing or every five years using combined Pap and HPV testing.
Our 17 health centers in Illinois offer routine cervical cancer screenings and the HPV vaccine. Last year alone, we provided nearly 10,000 cervical cancer screenings to women across the state.
Planned Parenthood of Illinois is proud to be the nonprofit health care provider for more than 60,000 people in Illinois. We work every day to keep women healthy, and our doors are open to everyone. Make it your New Year’s resolution to take control of your health. Contact your local Planned Parenthood health center to see if you’re due for a checkup!
This post was created by Planned Parenthood of Illinois (PPIL). PPIL provides comprehensive reproductive healthcare services and education to more than 60,000 Illinoisans each year. Planned Parenthood Illinois Action (PPIA) is an independent, nonpartisan, not-for-profit organization formed as the advocacy and political arm of PPIL.
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