The Lifespan Community Health Institute announced that January is Cervical Health Awareness Month. According to the National Cervical Cancer Coalition (NCCC), 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).
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 Center for Disease Control (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 but, for those 15 and older, a full three-dose series is needed.
The safety of HPV vaccines was studied in clinical trials before they were licensed, according to the NCCC. For Gardasil 9 (released in 2014), more than 15,000 individuals participated in these trials. The first version of Gardasil (released in 2006) was studied in over 29,000 participants, according to NCCC’s website.
Two types of testing are available. 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, according to the NCCC.
If you are low-income, don’t have health insurance, or can’t afford your co-pays, you may be eligible for the Rhode Island Department of Health’s Women’s Cancer Screening Program, which provides screening and diagnostic services to eligible women.
You can download the below document here.