January is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month, and this is an important topic that we need to be discussing. We encourage you to read our article, “Understanding Cervical Cancer”, to learn more about this disease.
Now that you are familiar with what cervical cancer is, let’s dive into some common questions and their answers.
Cervical Health Questions
What is the cervix and what does it do?
The cervix is found in females, and its function is to connect the vagina to the uterus. It helps facilitate pregnancy, clean your vagina, and grows a mucus plug when you’re pregnant. The cervix opens to allow menstrual blood to pass and allow semen to flow in. You can learn more about the cervix here.
How do I keep my cervix healthy?
Regular physical examinations, including a Pap smear screening test, are essential for the early detection of cervical cancer. A Pap test involves collecting cells from the inside of your cervix. These cells are then examined for abnormalities and checked for the presence or absence of HPV. This virus causes most cervical cancers.
What causes cervical cancer and how do I prevent it?
Most cases of cervical cancer are caused by HPV. Therefore, safe sex is one of the best ways to decrease your risk of developing the disease. Condoms significantly reduce the risk of catching HPV from your sexual partner. The HPV vaccination can also prevent you from getting HPV. It is a two or three-shot series started around the age of 12.
What is HPV?
According to the CDC, “HPV, or human papillomavirus, is a common virus that can lead to 6 types of cancers later in life.” Those cancers are cervical, vulvar, penile, anal, oropharyngeal/throat, and vaginal. HPV is incredibly common. Most men and women will be exposed to HPV at some point in their life. Some people successfully clear the virus from their body, while others don't and are chronically infected with HPV. Chronic infection can lead to cancer. The CDC states, “HPV is spread through intimate skin-to-skin contact. You can get HPV by having vaginal, anal, or oral sex with someone who has the virus.” Learn more about HPV by visiting the CDC’s website.
If I am an adult can I still get the HPV vaccine?
According to the CDC, the HPV vaccine is most appropriate for those 11-12 years of age but can be given as young as age 9. However, it is recommended that anyone under the age of 26 be vaccinated. It is recommended to complete the HPV vaccine series before you have sex for the first time, so it can work the best. The vaccine is generally not appropriate for anyone over the age of 26 years old because most individuals have had sex or been exposed to HPV by this age. You should always discuss your options with your doctor as it still may be beneficial for certain individuals older than 26.
Schedule Your Physical Today
Regular physical examinations are critical for the prevention and early diagnosis of diseases. We know you are busy, and these visits take time, but they are necessary to keep you healthy. Schedule your physical today.