January is cervical health awareness month.
Cervical cancer is still a leading cause of cancer deaths in women. But now women can take steps throughout their lives to prevent cervical cancer, starting in their preteen years.
GET THE HPV VACCINE
The human papillomavirus (HPV) is the main cause of cervical cancer. The virus infects the genitals and is transmitted through skin-to-skin contact.
The vaccine is recommended for girls age 11 or 12 – or before they are likely to encounter the virus. However, the vaccine can be given to girls as young as 9 and as old as 26.
GET PAP TESTS REGULARLY
Women should have their 1st pap test when they are 21 years old to screen for early signs of cervical cancer. If the results are normal, women should repeat the test every 3 years for the rest of their 20s.
GET THE HPV VACCINE
Women up to the age of 26 can get the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine if they have not already.
FOLLOW A ROUTINE SCREENING PLAN
Starting at age 30 women can switch to screening with both a pap test and a human papillomavirus (HPV) test every 5 years
Or they can continue their pap test – only screening every 3 years
GET SCREENINGS IF NEEDED
Women older than 65 who have had regular screenings with normal results over the past 10 years can stop screening.
Women who have a history of pre-cancers should continue screening for at least 20 years after the most recent abnormality was found.
WHAT YOU SHOULD DO:
LADIES: Get to any Centres for Disease Control and prevention (CDC) near you (usually in teaching hospitals) or any government hospital (although some well established private hospitals may offer this service) and run the screening at very low cost or get the vaccine as it applies to you.
GENTLEMEN: Support the ladies, tell your spouse, daughters, cousins, nieces, colleagues, house helps etc about cancer prevention and screening.
Sources: American Cancer Society, Centres for Disease Control and Prevention; U.S Preventive Services Task Force, Society of Gynaecology & Obstetrics of Nigeria.
Written by: Ogaga-Oghene AKPUGHE