Why think about cervical health? As a sexuality educator I get lots of questions about STIs, Guardasil, pregnancy, and fertility. Did you know these are all actually questions about or related to the cervix?
When I was growing up and thinking about being a mother, I never thought about how important it was for me to take care of my reproductive health. Honestly I didn’t even know what that meant! I didn’t know what a cervix was, where it was or how it might be connected to my future children. In my experience young people today don’t know about it either, although many may someday want to be parents, like I did. For those that want to be parents someday it’s important to practice good cervical health. That means getting annual exams, PAP smears, and getting vaccinations.
Today there are vaccines available to help take care of your cervical health including Gardisil and Cervarix. These vaccines protect against the human papilloma virus (HPV) that causes cervical cancer and genital warts. Both vaccines are administered as a 3-dose series over a 6 month period. It is very important to get all 3 doses of HPV vaccine to get the full benefits. (via: http://www.plannedparenthood.org/health-topics/womens-health/cervical-cancer-40717.htm)
Several years ago when Gardasil was first introduced, they had a commercial with little girls jumping rope and chanting “I want to be one less.” I loved these commercials because they emphasized how the vaccine prevents cervical cancer in a meaningful way. Both vaccines are proven effective at preventing the types of HPV that cause the majority of cervical cancers. Gardasil is also effective at preventing HPV strains that cause most genital warts. In addition they have also prevented some cancers of the anus, vulva and vagina. They are most effective if taken before one becomes sexually active and are given to females and males between the ages of 9 – 26 years. Yes, males should get the vaccine too!
When I am doing education with parents, many of them are saying that their daughters, and in some instances, sons, have had the vaccine. This is great news. And although we now have the ability to prevent some cervical cancers and genital warts; it’s important to remember those who weren’t able to get the vaccine, share their stories and encourage young people to get it. I have a poster of a young woman, Kristen Forbes (an Indiana resident), who was unfortunately, not “one less”. She got one of the strains of HPV that cause cervical cancer and eventually died from the cancer as have many others before and after her. (via: http://kristeneve.org/home/ ). “Each year about 12,000 women in the United States are diagnosed with cervical cancer. About 4,000 women die of it every year (via: http://www.plannedparenthood.org/health-topics/womens-health/cervical-cancer-40717.htm).”
The vaccines along with Pap tests and HPV testing at recommended intervals are powerful, safe and effective tools that will go a long way toward preventing needless deaths and illness due to HPV. So, let’s take care of our cervix! If we do, there will be “one less” and “one less” and “one less” until every cervix is healthy.
Make an appointment at your local Planned Parenthood of Indiana today. Call us at 1-800-230-PLAN or visit our site to find the nearest location.