January marks National Cervical Health Awareness Month, and the Illinois Department of Public Health is using the occasion to encourage regular screening for cervical cancer and vaccinations for HPV.
The Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is the leading cause of cervical cancer, and the most common types of HPV can be prevented by the vaccines Cervarix and Gardasil. Regular screenings for the disease are also necessary.
"Because of the advances in screening, as well as the HPV vaccine, cervical cancer is highly preventable. It is also very treatable if detected early," IDPH Director Dr. LaMar Hasbrouck said. "There are often no noticeable symptoms with cervical cancer, so it is important to get screened regularly. Now is also the time for teens and young women and men to talk with health care providers about the HPV vaccine, which can prevent the most common types of HPV that cause cervical cancer."
Although all women are at risk for cervical cancer, it's most common in women over the age of 30. About 580 women in Illinois get diagnosed with the cancer in a year, about 160 of whom will die.
The primary cause of the cancer is HPV, which is the most commonly sexually transmitted disease. At least half of all individuals who are sexually active will get HPV at some point in their life, but relatively few women will develop cervical cancer.
Cervarix and Gardasil are available for females ages nine to 26 and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends all girls age eleven or twelve get the vaccine to protect against the disease. The CDC also recommends the vaccine for females between the ages of 13 and 26 who did not get the vaccine at an earlier age.
Males between the ages of nine and 26 can also take Gardasil. The CDC recommends the vaccine for all males between the ages of 11 and 21.
For more information about cervical cancer screening, visit www.cancerscreening.illinois.gov/.
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