The Florida Department of Health in Polk County recognizes January as Cervical Health Awareness Month, a time to educate, encourage and empower women to visit their health care provider for information and screening for cervical cancer.
“It's important for women to know their health status and attend regular health checkups,” said Dr. Joy Jackson, director of the Florida Department of Health in Polk County (DOH-Polk). “Women can help prevent cervical cancer by getting screened regularly beginning at age 21, and receiving appropriate follow-up care.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), approximately 12,000 women in the United States are diagnosed with cervical cancer each year. In Florida, there were 914 new cases and 345 deaths from cervical cancer in 2013 (Florida Cancer Data System). Most cervical cancer cases occur in women who have never been screened with a Pap test or have not been screened in the past five years.
Since the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine was introduced in 2006, CDC reports there has been a 64 percent reduction in vaccine-type HPV infections among teen girls in the United States. Studies have shown that fewer teens are getting genital warts and cervical pre-cancers are decreasing. Nearly all cervical cancers are caused by HPV. HPV is a common skin virus that is passed from one person to another during sexual activity. The HPV vaccination series can help prevent multiple cancers, including cervical cancer and cancer of the head, mouth, neck and throat.
The Advisory Committee for Immunization Practices recommends vaccinating boys and girls ages 11 to 12 years old. The HPV vaccine may be given starting at 9 years of age and through the age of 26 for those who did not get any or all of the shots when they were younger. The Florida Department of Health in Polk County provides free vaccines for those who qualify. These are made available at all clinic locations including Auburndale, Bartow, Haines City, Lake Wales, and Lakeland.
Talk to your medical provider about when a Pap test is most appropriate for you. Tests for specific HPV strains can support earlier diagnosis of cervical cancer. When found early, it is highly treatable.
According to CDC, follow these tips to reduce your risk or prevent cervical cancer:
- Get the HPV vaccine;
- See your doctor regularly for a Pap test if you are a woman between the ages of 21 and 65;
- Do not smoke; and
- Limit your number of sexual partners.
The DOH Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program is available statewide. This program provides Pap tests and mammograms to women ages 50-64, who are uninsured and are at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level.
For more information about cervical cancer and HPV, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website at www.cdc.gov.
Watson Clinic's gynecology specialists provide a comprehensive roster of services related to the detection and treatment of a variety of conditions, including cervical cancer. Call 863-680-7243 to schedule an appointment at any one of three convenient locations: Watson Clinic Bartow Gynecology, Watson Clinic Bella Vista Building, and Watson Clinic Highlands.