During National Cervical Health Awareness Month, Pocahontas Memorial Hospital urges women to make cervical health a priority in the New Year. The importance of regular lifesaving screenings and vaccines cannot be stressed enough.
Each year in the United States approximately 12,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer; and even though cervical cancer is highly preventable, about 4,000 women die from the disease. Cervical cancer tends to occur more among women under the age of 50.
The most common cause of cervical cancer is the human papillomavirus (HPV), a sexually transmitted disease. Most people with HPV do not even know they have it, because they never have symptoms or problems. Usually the body’s immune system will fight off the infection and it will go away on its own. However, if the HPV infection does not go away and it is left untreated, cervical cancer may develop. Women who smoke, have HIV or other autoimmune deficiencies, have used birth control pills for five or more years, or have given birth to three or more children are at a higher risk for cervical cancer.
Fortunately, cervical cancer is easy to prevent and detect. Regular Pap tests can identify any abnormalities before cancer develops and are the best means of detecting cervical cancer at an early stage. Experts recommend that all women begin having Pap tests at age 21. Many women only begin seeing a gynecologist regularly after they become pregnant. It is then that they may discover they have cervical cancer, which can be dangerous to both the mother and the baby.
Early detection and preventative actions are crucial in saving lives. If you do not have a regular healthcare provider, we encourage you to call the Rural Health Clinic today to make an appointment. The Rural Health Clinic, located at PMH, provides a full range of women’s health services. You may contact the clinic by calling 304-799-6200.