FRANKLIN — January is Cervical Health Awareness Month and, whether you have a cervix or not, there are some easy steps you can take to help prevent the life-ending cancer.

Each year nearly 13,000 women and girls are diagnosed with cervical cancer and more than 4,000 die in the United States alone; the numbers are far greater globally.

So what can we do? First, get vaccinated and encourage those around you to get vaccinated. HPV causes nearly all cervical cancer. Gardasil is a vaccine that prevents multiple strains of HPV infection, including the high-risk types associated with cervical cancer. The Food and Drug Administration recommends the vaccine for everyone, regardless of gender, between the ages of 9 and 45. “High-risk” HPV types also are associated with vulvar, vaginal, anal, penile, and many head and neck cancers.

Next, encourage the women 21 and over in your life to get a pap. Lead by example if you can; you usually need one only every 3-5 years. Pap smears aren’t as fun as a wine-and-paint night, but they are quick and they can tell you and your health care provider if you have abnormal cells growing in your cervix. Abnormal cells need followup. They can be an infection or they can be HPV. Depending on the results, your health care provider will recommend the type of followup you need.

Early detection from pap tests is key to preventing those abnormal cells with high-risk HPV from progressing to cervical cancer by ensuring you or your loved ones get followup treatment if needed.

Not all HPV progresses to cancer. There are more than 140 million women and girls living with HPV in the U.S. alone. There is no common screening for men and boys, so we don’t have good numbers on how many of them are affected.

The bottom line is this: We can’t prevent all kinds of cancer, but we can prevent this one.

For more information, call Franklin VNA & Hospice at 603-934-3454 or visit www.FranklinVNA.org.

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