January is cervical health awareness month
Community Health Center of the Black Hills is advocating cervical cancer awareness month with TEAL– Take Early Action & Live.
According to the CDC, every year about 14 million Americans become infected with HPV; about 12,000 women are diagnosed with and about 4,000 women die from cervical cancer caused by certain HPV viruses. Additionally, HPV viruses are associated with several other forms of cancer affecting men and women.
Cervical cancer is detectable, preventable and treatable. Regular screenings and early vaccinations can save lives.
Almost all cervical cancers are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV), a common virus that can be passed from one person to another during sex. HPV vaccination helps prevent infection with the HPV types that cause most cervical cancers. 2 specific strands of HPV are cancer causing.
Jennifer Sobolik, Nurse Practitioner at Community Health of the Black Hills, says, “80% of people who are sexually active will get HPV of some kind at some point in their life. So there are the types that case cervical cancer, there are the types that cause genital warts, there are types of HPV that can cause throat and head and neck cancers, so many, many kinds of HPV but the 2 that we worry about are 16 and 18.”
Since HPV shows no symptoms, the only way to know is through recommended screenings, which begin at age 21.
Sobolik says, “You can have HPV and have the virus and not have cervical cancer and vice versa – it’s not like they always come together.”
There are options for screenings and vaccinations for the under insured- based on income, through the family planning program and all women count program at community health.
The guidelines suggest women should get pap smears every 3 years until age 30, then every 5 years after 30.
Jennifer says to prevent HPV- get the vaccination (which can be first given at age 9) also limit the number of sex partners, use condoms and don’t smoke. Keep your immune system in optimal shape, by eating healthy, taking a multi vitamin, exercising, getting adequate sleep and not smoking.
In 2018, The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved a supplemental application for the HPV vaccine, expanding the coverage.
“The FDA now approved the HPV vaccine for women up to the age of 45 so we have a whole group of women who weren’t vaccinated initially because the vaccine used to be up to the age of 26 or 27 and that has changed so now we have a whole bunch more women who can come in an get the vaccine,” says Sobolik. Men are encouraged to get this vaccine as well.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has stated that HPV vaccination prior to becoming infected covered by the vaccine has the potential to prevent more than 90 percent of these cancers from ever developing.
Contact Community Health to learn more about screening and vaccination schedules. Visit www.chcbh.org for more information on how to make an appointment and for a listing of all services we offer.
The most commonly reported adverse reactions of the HPV vaccine were injection site pain, swelling, redness and headaches.