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Preventing cervical cancer

January is Cervical Cancer Awareness month, so I wanted to share some vital information with you.

Cervical Health Awareness Month is a chance to raise awareness about how women can protect themselves from HPV (human papillomavirus) and cervical cancer. HPV is a very common infection that spreads through sexual activity. It’s also a major cause of cervical cancer.

When cancer starts in the cervix, it is called cervical cancer. The cervix, part of the female reproductive system, is the lower, narrow end of the uterus.

The human papillomavirus (HPV) is the main cause of cervical cancer. HPV is a common virus that is passed from one person to another during sex. At least half of sexually active people will have HPV at some point in their lives.

About 79 million Americans currently have HPV. Many people with HPV don’t know they are infected.

So what is the good news? The HPV vaccine (shot) can prevent HPV, and cervical cancer can often be prevented with regular screening tests (called Pap tests) and follow-up care.

LaChona Ferguson is the community manager for Relay for Life. To reach her, call 740-708-5186 or by email at lachona.ferguson@cancer.org.

The American Cancer Society estimated that in 2015 cervical cancer in the United States there would be approximately 12,900 new cases of invasive cervical cancer will be diagnosed, and approximately 4,100 women would die from cervical cancer.

Cervical pre-cancers are diagnosed far more often than invasive cervical cancer.

Cervical cancer was once one of the most common causes of cancer death for American women. But over the last 30 years, the cervical cancer death rate has gone down by more than 50 percent. The main reason for this change was the increased use of the Pap test. This screening procedure can find changes in the cervix before cancer develops. It can also find cervical cancer early — in its most curable stage.

Cervical cancer tends to occur in midlife. Most cases are found in women younger than 50. It rarely develops in women younger than 20. Many older women do not realize that the risk of developing cervical cancer is still present as they age. More than 15 percent of cases of cervical cancer are found in women over 65.

However these cancers rarely occur in women who have been getting regular tests to screen for cervical cancer before they were 65. See the section, “Can cervical cancer be prevented?” and our document Cervical Cancer Prevention and Early Detection for more information about tests used to screen for cervical cancer.

The good news is that cervical cancer can be prevented! Since the most common form of cervical cancer starts with pre-cancerous changes, there are two ways to stop this disease from developing. One way is to find and treat pre-cancers before they become true cancers, and the other is to prevent the pre-cancers in the first place.

For more information please go to www.cancer.org, or call 1-800-227-2345.