By Lisa Franclemont
Health Educator, UMMC and Coordinator, Cancer Services Program of Genesee & Orleans
January is Cervical Health Awareness Month. It is designed to raise awareness among girls and women about how to take care of their body and ways to prevent serious conditions like cervical cancer.
One of the easiest ways to keep up to date with your cervical health is through a pap smear. At age 21, women should begin having annual appointments with their gynecologist to have a pap test done. This test helps identify any potential problems or concerns. If the pap test comes back normal, you can wait three years until your next pap test. When you turn 30 and your pap test comes back normal and your Human Papilloma Virus test is negative, you can wait five years.
What is the Human Papilloma Virus? The virus is common among sexual active people. Most HPV infections clear up naturally by the body in a year or two. Other times HPV infections can cause problems including genital warts and cervical cancer. HPV vaccines can help prevent infections. The Centers for Disease Control recommend all boys and girls get the HPV vaccine at the age of 11 or 12.
For more information you can contact your doctor or your county's Cancer Service Program for help if you do not have insurance.