COLUMBUS, Ga. – The most important fact about cervical cancer is it’s preventable. January is Cervical Health Awareness Month, a time to educate women about being screened for cervical cancer and vaccinated against the Human Papillomavirus or HPV if eligible.
It’s recommended that women get their first pap smear at the age of 21, regardless of sexual history. But Dr. Thomas Michael Malone says preventing the disease should start even earlier. It’s recommended that girls and boys between the ages of 11 and 26 be vaccinated against HPV. It’s the leading cause of cervical cancer. But in boys, HPV can cause genital warts and other forms of cancer.
The HPV vaccine is not recommended in people past the age of 26, but Dr. Malone says that’s where the pap smear comes in. Most gynecologists and their patients prefer to stick to previous recommendations of having the test every year as opposed to every three years.
An estimated 12,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer each year. Of those, about one-third die as a result.