What is Cervical Health Awareness Month?
The United States Congress designated January as Cervical Health Awareness Month. Nearly 13,000 women in the United States are diagnosed with cervical cancer each year, but the disease is preventable with vaccination and appropriate screening (Pap and HPV tests).
During January, NCCC and its many local chapters across the country highlight issues related to cervical cancer, HPV disease and the importance of early detection. While NCCC chapters host events throughout the year, January is a month with a special focus as chapters celebrate Cervical Health Awareness Month and work to spread the word in their communities.
NCCC and the American Sexual Health Association (ASHA) also offer a range of resources (listed below) to educate the public and healthcare providers about cervical health, from fact sheets to episodes of ASHA’s Sex+Health podcast.
What Can You Do?
As someone who is interested in educating and advocating for increased knowledge of cervical cancer and HPV disease, you can do a lot. You can contact your local media to encourage coverage of Cervical Health Awareness Month, offering this ASHA/NCCC press release. You can also send this proclamation to your mayor, or local legislative office to publicly recognize Cervical Health Awareness Month.
HPV vaccines can help prevent infection from both high risk HPV types that can lead to cervical cancer 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 are 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.
A Pap test can find cell changes to the cervix caused by HPV. HPV tests find the virus and help healthcare providers know which women are at 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.
The HPV vaccine is now approved for males and females through age 45 and NCCC hosted a Facebook live discussion to cover what you need to know about the expanded age range.