Knowledge is Power
Cervical Cancer Prevention and Detection Is All About Timing
When it comes to cervical cancer, the early bird truly catches the worm. Not only is it highly preventable, it’s also easily treatable. January is Cervical Health Awareness month and there’s no better way to start the year than with the resolution to keep your health top of mind for 2017.
Around 12,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer each year, and with 4,000 of those cases resulting in death, early detection is key. The Affordable Care Act requires insurance plans to cover cervical cancer tests at no cost to the patient, so don’t think twice about calling AltaMed to make an appointment with your PCP today.
The human papillomavirus (HPV) is the number one cause of cervical cancer and is extremely common—most sexually active humans have had HPV at some point in their life. There are a variety of strains: some cause genital warts, many are harmless and clear naturally by the body, and others are linked to cervical cell change which, when not detected early, can increase a woman’s risk for cervical cancer.
The good news is that there is a vaccine available for four different strains of HPV. The CDC recommends that both boys and girls receive the vaccine, which is given in three doses at around age 11 or 12. Anyone under the age of 26 is also encouraged to get the vaccine.
Getting screened regularly through an annual Pap exam will also ensure that any cell changes in the cervix caused by HPV are detected in time to prevent cancer from developing. The exam is recommended beginning at 21 years of age, and if results are regular, is only needed every three years. For those 30 and older, there’s also an HPV test you may request. If results of both your Pap and this test are normal, you’ll likely be able to wait five years until your next screening.
Beyond these measures, smoking cigarettes, using birth control for five or more years, giving birth to three or more children, or having HIV or other conditions that weaken the immune system may also increase your risk of cervical cancer. If you have any questions or concerns, please talk to your doctor or call AltaMed’s Nurse Advice Line at (877) 861-6728.
When it comes to cervical cancer, time truly is of the essence, so don’t hesitate to visit one of our clinics today. At AltaMed we consider ourselves your partner in health care and are always here to help.