January is Cervical Cancer Awareness month, and the color is TEAL. Did you know there are still over 12,000 women in the United States who are diagnosed with this cancer every year? And although our treatments have greatly improved, there are still over 4000 deaths from this cancer every year. The good news is that we have PREVENTION, and with this prevention, we hope to eliminate cervical cancer within our lifetime!
The HPV vaccine is approved and strongly recommended for all adolescents- girls and boys- as part of their routine vaccinations at age 11-12 years. The second generation of Gardasil vaccine (Gardasil 9) now covers not the HPV strains that cause 90% of cervical cancers (as well as the two strains that cause 90% of genital warts.) If your child has started the series with the original Gardasil, they may finish out the series with the Gardasil 9 to increase the spectrum of their immunity.
YES, the vaccine is safe. YES, the vaccine is effective- extremely effective! YES, my daughters are immunized, and they are the two people my husband and I love and care about the most on this planet! Enough said.
Pap tests- are they still necessary? Yes, but NOT EVERY YEAR (and the crowd cheers)! Our current guidelines recommend Pap testing starting at age 21 years, and then every 3 years till age 65. There is also an option for 30-65 year olds to test only every 5 years when they do combined Pap and HPV testing.
Does the Pap check for all sexually transmitted infections? NO. The Pap test checks for early cervical cancer. To check for STI’s such as HIV, gonorrhea, chlamydia, syphilis, and herpes, you will need additional testing (of blood, urine, and possibly a swab test performed during a pelvic exam.)
Are there support groups for women diagnosed with cervical cancer? Absolutely! For example, I’m honored to be in the picture above with Tamika Felder, the founder of a wonderful support group CERVIVOR – check out her website!
BOTTOM LINE: That magical “cure for cancer” has not yet been discovered for all cancers, but CERVICAL CANCER is preventable – let’s end this disease for our children by vaccinating them now!