January is Cervical Health Awareness Month and according to the Madison County Department of Health, the most important thing a woman can do to help prevent cervical cancer is to get screened regularly starting at age 21. Cervical cancer is highly preventable with regular screening tests and appropriate follow-up care.
Cervical cancer is almost always caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV), making infection by HPV the most important risk factor for cervical cancer.
The HPV vaccine is given in a series of two shots when started before the age of 15. When started after age 15, HPV vaccine is given in a series of three shots. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends routine vaccinations for girls ages 11 to 12. Because the HPV vaccine can also protect against certain types of cancers in males, the CDC recommends that boys also get the HPV vaccine at age 11 to 12. Vaccination can begin as early as age 9 and may still be given until age 26.
Talk to your doctor about the HPV vaccine, whether for yourself if you are 26 years old or younger, or for your child who is 9 years or older. Be sure to complete the multi-dose series once started. The HPV vaccine is also available at Madison County Health Department Immunization clinics. Visit healthymadisoncounty.org or call 315-366-2848 for the clinic schedule or to book an appointment.
The second thing you can do is to get screened for cervical cancer. Routine screening for women aged 21 to 65 years old can prevent cervical cancer. If you are uninsured or underinsured, the Cancer Services Program of Madison, Oneida and Herkimer Counties (CSP), which is operated by the Oneida County Health Department, may be able to help provide important preventive cancer screenings at no cost to the patient. The CSP offers routine cervical cancer (and breast cancer) screenings to uninsured women ages 40 to 64. Call 315-798-5248 to find out if you are eligible.
For more information on this or the Madison County Health Department’s programs and services, visit www.healthymadisoncounty.org.