January is Cervical Health Awareness Month, and so as the New Year starts, we’d like to share with you three ways that you can pay attention to your cervical health.
- Regular Health Screenings – All women over the age of 18 should have an annual health screening which should include a pap test (every 3 years after age 21). Pap tests can detect cells that have undergone a change but have not yet turned cancerous. You will also have the opportunity to speak with your doctor about other health concerns you may have. Your doctor can also check for other things like cysts and infections. Due to new health care reform, most insurance companies cover 100% of the cost of these visits and there are many low-cost or free healthcare clinics throughout the country for those without insurance.
- HPV Vaccine – Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the main cause of cervical cancer in women. In the past few years, a vaccine was created that can safeguard against HPV in both preteen boys and girls. For teen girls and young women through age 26 and teenage boys and young men through age 21 who did not receive the vaccine when they were younger, there is still a vaccine option. The CDC provides further details on who should receive the HPV vaccine and when.
- Practicing Smart & Safe Sex – HPV is a sexually transmitted disease. Unfortunately at this time, there is no test to determine whether or not a male has HPV, making it more likely to be transmitted to a sexual partner. This is just one of the many reasons practicing safe and smart sex is important. Using protection and being aware of your partner’s sexual history and health can help keep you safe. Please note that condoms are not always 100% effective and if you are sexually active, you should have regular STD and health screenings.
While some of these suggestions do require a trip to the doctor, it is much easier to treat things like cervical cancer in an early stage. Being smart about your health and staying aware of the risk factors for cervical cancer can help keep you in great health.