January is Cervical Health Awareness Month. This month, the providers at the St. Vincent Clinic share some straight talk on the sensitive subject of the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) and Cervical Cancer prevention.
- HPV is very common, and most sexually active individuals have it as some point.
There are 79 million people in the U.S. with the virus.
- There are different types of HPV, with some that are linked to cervical cell changes that can increase a woman’s risk of cancer.
- HPV vaccines can help prevent infection. The CDC recommends that all boys and girls get the HPV vaccine at age 11 or 12. (The vaccine is available through age 26.)
- HPV can often, but not always, be prevented by the use of condoms.
- A Pap test can find cell changes in the cervix caused by HPV. A Pap/HPV co-test is recommended for women over 30 years of age.
- It can take weeks, months or even years after exposure to HPV before symptoms develop or the virus is detected. That’s why it’s usually impossible to determine when or from whom HPV may have been contracted. A recent diagnosis of HPV doesn’t necessarily mean anyone has been unfaithful, even in a long-term relationship spanning years.
- Pregnant women with HPV almost always have natural deliveries and healthy babies; it’s extremely rare for a newborn to get HPV from his or her mother.
- A new diagnosis of HPV can be upsetting – but it doesn’t mean that anyone did anything wrong, just that they were exposed to a common infection.
Check out the National Cervical Cancer Coalition at nccc-online.org for additional information and resources. Or, see a medical provider for information, testing, diagnosis, and prevention of HPV.