January is Cervical Health Awareness Month

Vaccinate early & screen regularly

Abarca stands in solidarity with the national campaign to raise awareness of cervical cancer, HPV (human papillomavirus) disease, and the importance of early detection. According to the National Cervical Cancer Coalition (NCCC), more than 13,000 women in the U.S. are diagnosed with invasive cervical cancer each year. Still, the disease is preventable with vaccination and appropriate screening. Knowing is half the battle and can save your life!

DIFFERENT TYPES OF HPV

Most people infected with HPV don’t know they have it, as often, there are no noticeable symptoms. Even if people do not develop genital warts, the virus is still in their system and could be causing damage. Some types of HPV can cause genital warts while other types are linked to cervical cell changes, which, if not detected early, can increase a woman’s risk for cervical cancer. HPV also causes some forms of cancer of the penis, anus, vagina, valva, and throat. However, most HPV infections are generally harmless and cleared naturally by the body in 1-2 years.

VACCINATE EARLY

Cervical cancer is linked to infection caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV), an incredibly common virus, and something people should not be ashamed of. Most sexually active people have HPV at least once in their lifetime, with approximately 79 million people in the U.S living with it.

HPV vaccines can help prevent infection from both high-risk HPV types that can lead to cervical cancer in women and low-risk types that cause genital warts. The CDC recommends all boys and girls get the HPV vaccine at age 11 or 12 as the vaccine produces a stronger immune response when taken during the preteen years. For this reason, up until age 14, only two doses of the vaccine are required.

The vaccine is available for all males and females through age 45 but, for those 15 and older, a full three-dose series is needed. The HPV vaccine has the best chance of protecting against infection if the shots series is given before a person becomes sexually active.  As the vaccine protects against 90% of the HPV strains that cause genital warts, there is a small chance that someone might still get genital warts after having all their HPV vaccine shots.

In any case, the HPV vaccine is not a replacement for using condoms to protect against other strains of HPV and other STDs when having sex. Even if a person and their partner have both been vaccinated, they should always use condoms for any type of sex (oral, anal, or vaginal) since condoms may prevent the spread of the types of HPV that are not covered by the vaccine.

EARLY TESTING

A Pap Smear test can detect cell changes in the cervix caused by HPV. HPV tests find the virus and help healthcare providers know which women are at the highest risk for cervical cancer. Pap and HPV tests (either alone or in combination) are recommended for women over 30: each woman should ask her health care provider how often she should be screened and which tests are right for her.

Abarca is dedicated to finding a better way in healthcare and powering solutions to improve the health and quality of life of everyone in our communities. By bringing awareness to Cervical Health and HPV, we can save lives.

The NCCC and the American Sexual Health Association (ASHA)  also offer a range of resources to educate the public and healthcare providers about cervical health, from fact sheets to episodes of ASHA’s Sex+Health podcast.

The organizations also have online support communities at Inspire.com that connect patients, partners, and caregivers. These are safe places where thousands of users find the information and support they need. 

RESOURCES 

  • Ten Things to Know about HPV and Cervical Cancer fact sheet. This includes information on how the HPV virus is transmitted, information on screening, vaccinations and where to find support
  • Free ebook: HPV & Cervical Cancer – Stories from Survivors and Supporters

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