With January being Cervical Cancer Awareness Month, it’s a great time to remind everyone of the importance of yearly screenings and available vaccinations. Cancer of the cervix, which is primarily caused by HPV, is the third most common gynecologic cancer in the United States and is also the easiest to prevent.

According to the CDC, nearly 80 million Americans are currently infected with some type of HPV. About 14 million Americans, including teens, become infected each year. HPV is estimated to cause nearly 35,000 cases of cancer in men and women every year in the U.S. The HPV vaccination can prevent more than 32,000 of these cancers from ever developing.

We all want a cure for or to be able to prevent cancer. While cures and prevention are still being developed for other forms of cancer, the HPV vaccine has been available for quite some time and yet many Americans are not getting vaccinated or receiving preventative screenings.

The HPV vaccination is routinely recommended for boys and girls at age 11 or 12; vaccination can be given starting at age 9. A catch-up HPV vaccination is recommended for all persons through age 26 who are not adequately vaccinated. Many parents question the vaccine being administered at a young age, however HPV is a sexually transmitted infection and the vaccine is most effective before exposure to HPV through sexual activity. Once HPV is acquired, the vaccine is ineffective at preventing the progression of the HPV infection, therefore the goal is to administer the vaccine before sexual activity occurs.

Whether the vaccine was received or not, it is important to visit your physician on an annual basis for preventative well visits and screenings.  When caught early, cervical cancer is easily treated. If you have additional questions or would like to schedule an appointment call MEHOP Pediatrics at 979-245-2008 ext. 500 for the HPV vaccine for ages 9-18 or MEHOP Family Medicine at 979-245-2008 ext. 406 for ages 19-26. For annual well visit screenings call MEHOP Women’s Health at 979-245-2008 ext. 517 or MEHOP Family Medicine at 979-245-2008 ext. 406.

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