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: Cervical Health Awareness: Women Should Stop Putting their Health on the Back Burner

Cervical Health Awareness: Women Should Stop Putting their Health on the Back Burner

Managing Editor

January is Cervical Health Awareness Month. The month-long observance is sponsored by the National Cervical Cancer Coalition (NCCC) as a way to raise awareness of issues related to cervical cancer, including HPV, as well as emphasize the importance of early detection. In addition to raising awareness of the importance of cervical health, it is also important to reinforce how critical it is for women to put themselves first long enough to ensure they are healthy.

In the midst of making sure kids, husbands, and often their own parents have annual physicals or go to the doctor when they are sick, many women fail to make their own health a priority. When a woman doesn't have regular checkups, something like HPV can be left to wreak havoc on her health.

HPV is Extremely Common

According to the NCCC, approximately 74 percent of American women and men come into contact with the HPV virus during their life. Flipped around, this statistic means that only 1 out of every 4 Americans has NOT been exposed to HPV. What this suggests is that although people aren't shouting their diagnosis from the rooftops, if you have it, you're not alone.

Although most cases of HPV (80 to 90 percent) are naturally eliminated and never lead to cervical cancer, 12,000 women will be diagnosed with cervical cancer this year. It is important to protect yourself and your health by having regular checkups (sometimes called well-woman visits) with your gynecologist or primary care provider--especially if you are between the ages of 35 and 55; one-half of all women diagnosed with HPV are diagnosed at this age.

The good news is that cervical cancer can be prevented. Regular screening (pap tests/pap smear) can help detect abnormal cells before they turn into cancer. And of course, the most effective way to prevent cervical cancer is to prevent HPV. Talk to your doctor about the importance of regular wellness visits and regular checkups.

What Can You Do?

As health communicators, we also have work to do. The well-woman visit is not at the top of any woman's list of favorite things, but it is important that we continue to stress how valuable this visit is. In addition, we can help spread the word that the Affordable Care Act covers the cost of well-woman visits and preventative care, including cervical cancer screenings. Finally, we can talk to parents about whether the HPV vaccine is the right choice for their child. These are just a few ways that we can make a difference and help spread the word about the need for more awareness and education about cervical health.

For more information about HPV, the American Sexual Health Association has created a helpful list of important facts about HPV.

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The Healthy(ist) blog is a platform to share, learn about, and debate topics related to public and social health, scientific research, health communications, and behavior change.
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