Congress has designated January as Cervical Health Awareness Month. Planned Parenthood of South Florida and the Treasure Coast hopes that the public will take the time to understand the disease including the risks and the value of early detection and prevention.
Each year approximately 12,000 women in the US are diagnosed with cervical cancer and 4000 women die of the disease.
Although cervical cancer dates back to ancient times, it wasn’t until the 1980s that researchers using modern DNA techniques were able to identify the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), a sexually transmitted infection, as the primary cause of cervical cancer.
It is estimated that about 79 million Americans currently have HPV.
With the cause finally understood, doctors began working on better treatments and vaccines. In 2006, the Food and Drug Administration approved vaccines Gardasil® and Cervarix® as highly effective in preventing infection with certain types of HPV.
It is important to know that the use of HPV vaccine does not eliminate the need for continued Pap test screening, since 30 percent of cervical cancers are caused by HPV types not included in the vaccine.
In honor of National Cervical Health Awareness Month, Florida health experts along with the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommend that :
- Women start getting regular Pap tests at age 21
- Women get the HPV vaccine before age 26
- Parents make sure their pre-teens get the HPV vaccine at age 11 or 12 (the vaccination series can be started as young as age 9 at the clinician’s discretion)
- ACIP recommends routine vaccination of males 11 or 12 years of age
- Catch-up vaccination recommended for females 13 through 26 years of age
- Catch-up vaccination recommended for males 13 through 21 years of age
- All immuno-compromised males (including HIV infection) and men who have sex with men through 26 years of age should be vaccinated
Because doctors today have the tools to prevent the disease, there is no reason for a single woman to die from cervical cancer.
To make an appointment for a screening or HPV vaccine at your local Planned Parenthood health center, visit or call 1-800-230-PLAN
For more information on HPV vaccines