January is often viewed as a new beginning, a time for creative resolutions and passionate pledges to embrace health.

Preventive checkups are an easy way to maintain health and catch health issues earlier, in a more treatable stage.

With January being cervical cancer screening month, it’s a great opportunity to focus in on cervical health. 

Cervical cancer can be highly curable if caught early. More than 13,000 women in the United States are diagnosed with cervical cancer every year, and about 4,000 will die from it. Cervical cancer is the fourth most common type of cancer in women worldwide. 

Cervical cancer is a cancer that starts in the cervix, the lower part of the uterus. Cervical cancer is most often spread through various strains of the human papillomavirus (HPV), a sexually transmitted infection.

It often doesn’t have any signs or symptoms until it’s spread, which is why screenings are so important. 

To live well and avoid the risk of cervical cancer, it is important for women to have Pap smears (or Paps).

A Pap checks for changes in cervical cells and detects infection or the presence of cervical cancer. The American Cancer Society recommends all women should begin cervical screening at age 21. 

Recommendations are screening with a Pap smear every three years for women ages 21 to 65. Alternatively, women aged 30 to 65 could opt for an HPV plus Pap screen every five years.

Screening tests can prevent cervical cancers by finding abnormal cervical changes, or pre-cancers, before they turn into cervical cancer.

The HPV vaccine is another way to prevent cervical cancer. The HPV vaccine helps protect women against certain types of HPV that can lead to cervical cancer.

The vaccine is most effective when given around 11 or 12 years of age. However, vaccination is recommended through the age of 26 if not previously vaccinated.

Newer recommendations show a benefit of vaccination until the age of 45, after a discussion with your provider to see if it’s right for you.

It is crucial to know and identify the signs and symptoms of cervical cancer in case a cancer goes unnoticed.

Symptoms include abnormal vaginal bleeding (between periods or after intercourse), pelvic pain, increased urinary frequency and abnormal vaginal discharge.

If you experience any of these, please see your healthcare provider for evaluation.

At Henry County Medical Center, we have our own women’s health providers at Paris Women’s Center.

Call our office at 644-8225 for an appointment for your women’s health needs.

 

LORI STAMBAUGH is the community nurse educator at Henry County Medical Center. A registered nurse, she has a bachelor’s degree in nursing.

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