By the Numbers Cervical cancer affects nearly 12,000 women each year and causes 4,200 deaths. The good news is that with vaccination and early detection screening, cervical cancer is a preventable disease.
Increased Risk There are several things that increase the risk of developing cervical cancer: smoking, multiple sexual partners throughout one’s lifetime, a previous history of sexually transmitted diseases (STD), illnesses that weaken one’s immune system, such as human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), and infection with human papilloma virus (HPV).
Human Papillomavirus (HPV) In most cases, cervical cancer is caused by human papillomavirus (HPV). This virus is very common in the United States, currently affecting approximately 79 million Americans, and is spread through sexual contact. Most of the time, people do not know they carry the virus. HPV can cause external genital warts, abnormal pap smear tests and cancer. Not all HPV causes cancer and most HPV infections go away; however, some HPV infections linger and can become cancer.
HPV is less likely to resolve in women over age 30; therefore, the rates of cervical cancer rise in women age 30 and above. Cervical cancer can take 10-20 years to develop but can be detected early through abnormal changes on pap smear testing before it becomes cancer.
How can you protect yourself and your loved ones from HPV and, ultimately, cervical cancer?
Vaccination against HPV is available for young women up to age 26 and men up to age 21; it can be given as early as age 9. This vaccine helps protect against a few common strains of HPV that cause genital warts and cervical, vaginal and vulvar cancers. Additionally, screening for cervical cancer with a pap smear and/or HPV testing can help detect abnormal cells and HPV before they develop into cancer. Women should begin cervical cancer screening at age 21. Additional ways to protect yourself against HPV are to quit smoking, use condoms and limit the number of sexual partners in your lifetime.
Tips for Preventing Cervical Cancer
Cervical cancer is highly preventable with vaccination, screening & early detection. Most insurances cover vaccination and testing to prevent cervical cancer – often at little or no cost to the patient. If you do not have insurance, many programs are available to assist with cervical cancer screening and vaccination.
January is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month. Take a small but important step to protect your health, and call your provider or one of our Valley Health offices today to schedule a well-woman exam to make sure your vaccination and cervical cancer screening is up to date!
Reviewed by Andrea Marcum Vallejos, M.D., FACOG, a board certified OB/GYN at Valley Health Systems in Huntington.
About Our Chronic Care Management Program
Chronic Care Management nurse, Chrissy Theuring, LPN, provides an overview of the services and benefits of Valley Health’s chronic care management program, Care Connect.
Care Connect is available at our Westmoreland, Harts, Huntington, Milton and Wayne health centers and is offered to Medicare patients of all ages who struggle with more than one chronic illness. Click here to learn more.
Time to Get Vaccinated for the 2018 Flu Season
October has just begun and it’s the perfect time to get your flu shot. Getting vaccinated each year provides the best protection throughout flu season. It’s important to get a flu vaccine every year, even if you got vaccinated the season before. Flu strains constantly change, and it’s not unusual for new flu viruses to appear each year.
Flu season typically begins in October and November, peaks during the months of December through February and then tapers off in the spring.
The flu vaccine takes about two weeks after vaccination to fully develop protective antibodies against the flu virus. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends people get vaccines by the end of October to be fully immunized against this year’s flu. Infants and some young children who need two doses for full protection should start the vaccination process soon, because the two doses must be given at least four weeks apart.
The CDC has updated its age recommendation this year to include babies six months of age. Children six months through eight years of age will need two doses of flu vaccine if they are getting vaccinated for the first time or if they have only had one dose of flu vaccine in the past. Children who have had two doses of flu vaccine (given at any time) only need one dose per season.
To prevent the spread of flu to children younger than 6 months and too young to get a flu vaccine, everyone who is around the baby should be vaccinated. Also, studies have shown that flu vaccination of a mother during pregnancy can protect the baby after birth from flu infection for several months.
According to CDC, flu can spread from the person who is ill to others up to six feet away. Most experts think that flu viruses spread mainly by droplets made when people with flu cough, sneeze or talk. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs. A person can also get flu by touching a surface or object that has flu virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes.
People with flu are most contagious in the first three to four days after their illness begins. Most healthy adults may be able to infect others beginning one day beforesymptoms develop and up to five to seven days after becoming sick. Children and some people with weakened immune systems may pass the virus for longer than seven days. Generally speaking, most people can return to school or work after being fever-free without fever-reducing medications for at least 24 hours.
Symptoms can begin about two days after the virus enters the body. That means that you may be able to pass on the flu to someone else before you know you are sick, as well as while you are sick. Some people can be infected with the flu virus but have no symptoms. During this time, those people may still spread the virus to others.
The best way to avoid getting ill is to get the flu vaccine every season. Flu vaccines are available at all Valley Health primary care center, including school-based health locations. If you have questions about the safety of the influenza vaccine, and which type of vaccine delivery system is best for you and your loved ones (spray, injection, jet injector), please feel free to call your Valley Health provider for information.
If you are having flu-like symptoms and would like an evaluation, please contact your primary care provider or call your local Valley Health location.
Preventive Health & Adult Immunizations
As the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Korey Mitchell, MD, a Valley Health family medicine provider at our Fort Gay and Stepptown locations, discusses preventive care and the importance of immunizations through adulthood. Contact your neighborhood Valley Health location to schedule an appointment today.