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Cervical Cancer: Your Questions Answered

This month is as good of a month as ever to resolve to take charge of your health check-ups. Fittingly, January also happens to be Cervical Health Awareness Month, which is a perfect time to finally get the facts on cervical cancer, human papillomavirus disease, and the importance of early detection.

What is cervical cancer? According to the National Cancer Institute, cervical cancer is a slow-growing cancer that forms in tissues of the cervix. It’s almost always caused by HPV infection.

How can screenings help? According to the American Cancer Society, women with early cervical cancers and pre-cancers have no symptoms. (Symptoms like abnormal vaginal bleeding don’t occur until the condition has become a true invasive cancer.) So the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have reported that regular screenings are the key to prevention — in fact, thanks to women getting tested, the incidence rate has decreased 1.9 percent every year from 2007 to 2011.

How can I take action? First, schedule regular Pap and HPV tests, which are a well-proven method to find and treat pre-cancer before it grows. (This simple procedure can prevent major surgery down the road.) Talk with your doctor about how frequently you should be screened. Typically, women should start testing at 21-years-old or within three years of the onset of sexual activity, and exams may range from annually to every three years for women aged 30 to 65. Also, HPV vaccines are available if you’re aged 26 or younger and aren’t up-to-date on your shots. Finally, smoking is never a good idea since women are twice as likely as non-smokers to get cervical cancer due to its chemicals absorbed in their bloodstream.

Find more information on how Independence Blue Cross can be a part of your plan for health and wellness.

Sponsor content is created for IBX by Philadelphia magazine as a marketing collaboration with IBX. This material is intended for reference and information only and should not be used in place of advice from a doctor or suitable qualified healthcare professional.