Women have unique health care needs and issues that require special focus. Many of the issues women face — including women in poverty, women in the labor force, and elderly women — are all ultimately related to health care access problems. In almost every age group, women use more health and medical services. Women are hospitalized more often, although their stays in hospitals tend to be shorter. Women also make more visits to health care providers for preventive health care, such as regular examinations and dental care.
As part of our ongoing efforts to provide comprehensive medical services and support to women throughout the greater north central Massachusetts region, we’re making our patients aware that January is Cervical Cancer Health Awareness Month. Cervical Health Awareness Month is an opportunity for communities, government agencies, and health care providers to raise awareness about how women can protect themselves from human papillomavirus (HPV) and cervical cancer.
HPV is a very common infection that spreads through sexual activity, and it causes almost all cases of cervical cancer. About 79 million Americans currently have HPV. Many people with HPV don’t know they are infected. And each year, more than 11,000 women in the United States get cervical cancer.
Fortunately, there is good news for women. HPV is preventable, thanks to the HPV vaccine, and cervical cancer can often be prevented with regular screenings and follow-up care. Cervical cancer screenings can help detect abnormal cells early, before they turn into cancer.
Cervical cancer screening is especially important for women’s health. Current guidelines from the American Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommend that women should have a pap test, or “smear,” every two years starting at age 21. It’s called a smear because a soft brush is used to take a tiny sample of cells from the cervix. The procedure itself is fast, relatively pain-free and takes no more than ten minutes. Both ACOG and the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force say pap smears are a woman’s best bet for early detection of cervical cancer.
Here at Community Health Connections we strongly encourage women to come in for regular examinations and pap smears. And there’s no better time to do it than right now, during Cervical Health Awareness Month. Our friendly staff will be more than happy to book you an appointment and answer any questions or concerns you may have about getting your pap smear done.