January is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month and is dedicated to increasing awareness and understanding of cervical cancer. The importance of regular screening can not be overstated.
The fight against cervical cancer continues to be a global challenge. In the United States, around 11,500 new cases of cervical cancer are diagnosed each year, and approximately 4,000 women die from this disease annually. These numbers underscore the ongoing need for awareness and proactive health measures.
Increasing Incidence in Younger Women
Alarmingly, there is an increasing trend in cervical cancer incidence among younger women, particularly those aged 30 to 44. This contrasts with a decline in incidence among women who were among the first to receive the HPV vaccine, now aged 20 to 24, which saw an 11% yearly decrease in cases from 2012 to 2019. These statistics highlight the effectiveness of the HPV vaccine in reducing cervical cancer risk and the importance of vaccination programs.
Benefits of Regular Screening
Screening for cervical cancer, such as through Pap smears and HPV testing, is critical. These screenings can not only detect cancer at an early stage, when it is most treatable, but can also identify precancerous changes in the cervix that can be treated before cancer develops. The American Cancer Society reports that cervical and colorectal cancer screenings can actually prevent cancer altogether by detecting and removing precancerous lesions.
Symptoms to Look For
While cervical cancer may not cause any symptoms in its early stages, some signs to watch out for include:
- Abnormal vaginal bleeding, such as bleeding after sex, between periods, or after menopause.
- Unusual vaginal discharge.
- Pain during sex.