When we hear the words “cervical cancer”, it is generally understood that only women can be diagnosed with this disease. This is true, as the male body does not contain a cervix. Thinking exclusively in this manner, however, can result in missing out on the larger discussion that surrounds cervical cancer: that of dealing with genital human papillomavirus, or HPV.
January is Cervical Health Awareness Month, though the scope of this effort is broader than the title might suggest. Cervical cancer is the 2nd most common cancer in women worldwide, with over 12,000 women diagnosed in the United States alone last year. The primary cause of cervical cancer, the previously mentioned HPV, is estimated to be transmitted to over 6 million Americans annually. Unlike cervical cancer, HPV occurs in both women and men and is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the United States. There are over 40 different types of HPV and there are likely over 20 million people currently living with various forms of genital human papillomavirus in this country today.
Preventing cervical cancer is closely tied to detecting – and even preventing – HPV. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) believe that up to half of all sexually active people will have a type of HPV at some point in their life, a staggering number when you really think about it. Perhaps even more concerning is the reality that many forms of HPV go undetected in the human body, and that HPV can be passed without the original carrier even knowing that they had it. The news about HPV is not all negative, though, as up to 90 percent of cases may go away without treatment, and a large percentage of cases have no symptoms at all. The cases that do not clear, however, have the potential to result in anything from genital warts to several forms of cancer, one of the most common of which is cervical cancer.
So, moving forwards, what can you do if you or a loved one is concerned about HPV or cervical cancer? If you are looking to prevent HPV, a vaccine has been introduced that protects the body against forms of the sexual transmitted infection that are known to cause cervical cancer, genital warts, and several other conditions. In terms of testing for cervical cancer, the most important thing to do is have a Pap test (also known as a Pap smear) done. Starting at the age of 21, women should have a Pap test administered every 3 years until they reach their mid-60s.
For more information about Cervical Health Awareness Month, HPV, CHC’s Early Detection Program, and the like, please check out our patient resource on chc1.com. http://chc1.com/Transformational/PatientResource.html
Please join us at CHC in raising awareness about this important topic.