HENDRICKS COUNTY, IN – Every year in the United States, nearly 13,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer and more than 4,000 will die as a result of the disease. This month, local public health officials are encouraging teens and young adults to get vaccinated against HPV, and women of all ages to get tested for HPV as part of Cervical Health Awareness Month.
“Cervical cancer is highly preventable,” states Marilee Evans, Public Health Nurse with the Hendricks County Health Department. “Routine testing and vaccinating against HPV are two of the most important things people can do to prevent the disease.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that the human papillomavirus, or HPV, is a group of more than 150 viruses that are transmitted through intimate skin-to-skin contact. HPV is very common, with nearly all men and women contracting it at some point in their lives. In most cases, HPV clears up on its own. When HPV does not go away, some strains can cause genital warts and cancer in both women and men.
“All women should have a Pap test by the age of 21,” continues Evans. “Pap tests detect changes in cells in the cervix. If changes are found, doctors can treat them before they turn into cervical cancer.”
Pap and HPV tests are recommended every three years for women under 30 and every five years for women over 30, unless recommended more frequently by a doctor.
In addition to testing, Evans recommends that all girls and boys ages 9-26 be vaccinated against HPV.
“The HPV vaccine prevents infection from the strains of the virus that most commonly cause cancer in both women and men. Since HPV is so prevalent and can be passed without symptoms, we highly encourage parents to have their children vaccinated as soon as they can.”
A two-dose vaccine is available for boys and girls ages 9-14, and a three-dose vaccine is available for teens and young adults ages 15-26. Parents and patients should contact their health care provider about getting the vaccine, or call the Health Department at (317) 745-9222 to schedule an appointment at their clinic in Danville.
Anna Lothe, Public Health Education Specialist with the Health Department, also encourages health care providers seeing teens and families to recommend and provide the HPV vaccine to their patients.
“A doctor’s recommendation for the HPV vaccine carries a lot of weight with their patients,” states Lothe. “If you make a strong recommendation for the vaccine, patients are more likely to get it.”
Lothe understands that HPV can be a difficult topic to discuss with patients and encourages any health care provider interested in free educational materials or training on the HPV vaccine to contact the Health Department at (317) 745-9222.
Cervical Health Awareness Month, which takes place every January, highlights the issues related to cervical cancer, HPV, and the importance of early detection. For more information, visit the National Cervical Cancer Coalition’s website at www.nccc-online.org.
For more information about HPV vaccination, contact the Hendricks County Health Department Public Health Nursing Division at (317) 745-9222 or visit their website at www.co.hendricks.in.us/health.