A friendly reminder: January is Cervical Health Awareness Month

Cancer touches many people.

Just like breast cancer and mammograms, great advances in the early detection of cervical cancer have occurred because of routine female examinations and screenings with the pap smear.

Cervical cancer is almost 100-percent preventable.

Despite this, almost 13,000 women are diagnosed annually with cancer of the uterine cervix, and more than 4,000 die annually.

Like most cancers, the key to survival is early detection.

Cervical cancer is mostly caused by infection of the cervix with cancer-causing forms of Human Papilloma Virus. Vaccinations against two common types of the virus are now available.

The vaccines do not prevent all forms of the virus, and therefore cannot prevent all infections and cancers.

It is important to discuss with your doctor the risks and benefits of having your children and even yourself vaccinated.

Although HPV is sexually transmitted, it is very common and common sense dictates we should consider options for decreasing its transmission.

Speaking with your physician will give you the most up-to-date information regarding the safety of the two HPV vaccines.

The overall prevalence of HPV infection in U.S. women ages 14 to 59 is 26.8 percent. The highest rates of HPV infection are 44.8 percent in wo-

men ages 14 to 19, indicating this is likely when women are getting exposed to the virus.

The gradual decline in infection rates as women age show that over time most women are able to fight off the infection.

Persistence of the infection, especially after the age of 30, could lead to cervical cancer later in life. These women will need more frequent exams to make sure the infection is not progressing or is going away.

I urge all of you this month to speak openly and honestly about cervical cancer with your family and friends. You might be surprised to see how much it has affected people close to you.

I also ask that you make time for preventative health and your pap test.

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