Cervical Cancer Awareness Month helps get women vaccinated against HPV

Published: Jan. 20, 2022 at 4:39 PM EST
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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - January is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month. Because of the pandemic, doctors are worried some women have delayed getting their regular screenings.

Dr. Ashley Valenzuela said because people are afraid to go to their doctor’s office or the hospital due to COVID, regular screenings for things like cervical cancer are being neglected.

She says cancers that are typically found early through screenings are now being found in later stages.

Dr. Valenzuela says cervical cancer is caused by the Human Papillomavirus or HPV. She says it’s important that people get vaccinated against HPV. Dr. Valenzuela says the vaccine covers nine strains of the virus and people ages 9-45 can get it.

Although, she says, the vaccine is most effective if you get it as a child before becoming sexually active. She says it can decrease the risk of getting cervical cancer by 90 percent.

She says it is safe to get vaccines, like the one for HPV, at the same time as the COVID-19 vaccine. Dr. Valenzuela says a month dedicated to cervical cancer awareness is a good time for people to take the necessary steps to stay healthy.

“There were about 14,000 new cases of cervical cancer in 2021. They expect about the same for 2022. Of those, about 4,000 women will die of the disease. I think the biggest thing to realize here is that it’s a preventable cancer that is screened for starting at age 21 with Pap Smears,” Dr. Valenzuela said.

Dr. Valenzuela says the HPV vaccination rate for Georgia is 50 percent, but it’s something that can be improved by bringing pre-teens and teenagers to those recommended screening appointments.

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