Cervical Health Awareness Month

By Lidija Fremeau | January 24 2020

An example of an endocervical Pap smear (no neoplastic cells present).January is Cervical Health Awareness Month. While cervical health is important twelve months of the year, it’s a great time to schedule necessary appointments and screenings. According to Dr. Richard Lieberman, with regular health screenings and the use of pap-smear testing, death rates from cervical cancer have dropped 90% since 1943.

Anymore, there is no conversation of cervical health without the mention of HPV, the leading cause of cervical cancer. In general, a population that has never been exposed to the virus (through sexual activity), and then vaccinated is 100% protected against the viruses covered by the HPV vaccine. While this may sound like a sexually transmitted infection vaccine, it is better referred to as a cancer prevention vaccine.

The most frequent complaints from those receiving the HPV vaccine, Gardasil-9, are a sore arm from the injection site and very rarely, feeling nauseous. It is a non-viral vaccine, meaning, recipients are not directly injected with the virus. Rather, the vaccine is composed of the viral protein that typically covers the virus, not the viral particle itself. Once the body identifies that covering, without ever having to detect the actual virus, it is recognized by the patient’s immune system and is “whisked away," and health is maintained.

The population at risk for cervical cancer is primarily women who are not getting screened or vaccinated. Current guidelines state that women aged 21-65 need to have routine screening for cervical cancer. A trip to the gynecologist is recommended for health maintenance, even if celibate or monogamous.