January is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month. Cervical cancer is highly preventable because of screening tests and availability of a vaccine that helps prevent human papillomavirus (HPV) infections. Young girls can help prevent cervical cancer by getting the HPV vaccine. The HPV vaccine is recommended for girls and women 11-26 years of age.
Women should begin regular Pap tests at age 21. If results are normal, the Pap test should be repeated every three years. For women age 30 or over, the HPV test can be used to screen for cervical cancer along with the Pap test. If both results are normal, the woman may wait up to five years for her next screening.
In addition to the HPV vaccine and regular screening, women can help prevent cervical cancer by not smoking, limiting the number of sexual partners, and using condoms during sex. If you are a woman with low income and have no health insurance, you may qualify for a free Pap test. The Every Woman’s Life program provides access to free breast and cervical cancer screenings and diagnostic services. Call the Chickahominy Health District at 804-365-4326 for eligibility and scheduling.
For more information on cervical cancer, visit the website for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at http://www.cdc.gov/cancer/cervical/