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Get a Pap Test for Cervical Health Awareness

HPV infections are normally sexually transmitted, but not all cervical cancers originate from viral infections. (Pixabay)
HPV infections are normally sexually transmitted, but not all cervical cancers originate from viral infections. (Pixabay)
January 25, 2018

RICHMOND, Va. — According to the National Cancer Institute, cervical cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer deaths in women in their 20s and 30s. But health care professionals say cervical cancer also is highly preventable.

January is Cervical Health Awareness Month, but with just a few days left in the month, health care advocates are encouraging people to make it a priority to schedule a test - whenever you can. Lynn Erdman is CEO of the Association of Women's Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses, an organization that promotes the health of women and newborns.

"If you have not done anything about a Pap test or, you know, even had your HPV vaccine, which you can have up to age 26, then make a call,” Erdman said. “It could be February, March, it could be anytime during the year. Just make that call and take some action to make sure you're protecting yourself as well."

Erdman said most women should start getting a Pap smear test at the age of 21. The test can identify if you have human papillomavirus, also known as HPV, or cervical cancer.

Erdman said the general rule is that women should get a Pap smear test every three years. For those preparing to go for the first time, Erdman said the procedure is painless.

"If you are eligible or your physician is offering, have an HPV test done, too, to see if you've got HPV,” she said. “That's a blood test and done in conjunction with the Pap test, but the Pap test will show you if there are any abnormalities in your cervical cells."

There are several risk factors that may increase the chance of developing cervical cancer, including HPV infection, smoking, being overweight and having a family history of cervical cancer.

Trimmel Gomes, Public News Service - VA