In addition to the new year, there’s another reason to celebrate January. Women, did you know that it’s Cervical Health Awareness Month?
During this month, the National Cervical Cancer Coalition works to educate the nation on the issues associated with cervical health, like cervical cancer, HPV, preventative methods, early detection, and more.
To help their efforts, we are highlighting some of the key information about these topics this month.
The Basics on HPV & Cervical Cancer
HPV stands for human papillomavirus, the name for a group of over 100 types of viruses infecting the skin. There are variants of genital HPV that can cause genital warts and some that can cause cellular changes to the cervix, which may lead to cervical cancer.
HPV is common in the United States — around 14 million new cases are diagnosed each year, and an estimated 79 million people are currently infected. Unfortunately, many of the infected do not know they have HPV, and it is easily spread through sexual contact; in fact, experts estimate that 70% of sexually active men and women will come into contact with HPV in their lifetime.
Fortunately, 80 – 90% of HPV is naturally eliminated within 2 years, and not all variants of the disease lead to cervical cancer. By age 50, 80% of all women have likely been infected with some form of HPV, and most of these women do not develop cervical cancer. Some women may have “persistent” HPV infection, which means the virus does not resolve on its own and the risk of developing abnormal cervical cells (and thus, cancer) increases.
What is Cervical Cancer?
Cervical cancer begins in the opening into the uterus, the cervix. It’s the second most common cancer in women worldwide, and upwards of 12,000 US women are diagnosed each year; 4,000 women die from cervical cancer annually.
Most cervical cancers — almost 99% — contain some form of HPV. There are two forms in particular, HPV-16 and HPV-18, that cause 70% of all cervical cancer cases.
The majority of cervical cancers take place in the squamous cells of the ectocervix, which is the part of the uterus that extends into the vagina. The second most common cervical cancer is adenocarcinoma, which develops from the mucus-producing glands in the endocervix (the cervical canal).
Improve Your Sexual Health
Fortunately, cervical cancer is one of the most preventable forms of the disease, since it develops over time. Next week, we will explore some of the ways to lower your risk of developing HPV and cervical cancer.
If you want to better monitor your sexual health, visit your nearest ARCpoint Labs for accurate, confidential STD testing, no appointment, insurance, or doctor’s orders needed!