According to the American Cancer Society, Latinas in the U.S. are twice as likely to be diagnosed with cervical cancer in comparison to non-Hispanic white women. We are also less likely to get regular checkups, making the death rate among us 50% higher than white women’s. And a new survey from the Gynecologic Cancer Foundation showed that while 89% of women don’t feel they’re at risk, 80% will get HPV in their lifetime. These are scary stats for the second most common cancer among women worldwide. Therefore, in honor of National Cervical Cancer Awareness Month, here’s a quick primer on risk factors and how you can protect yourself.
What causes it?
Cervical cancer is caused by the sexually transmitted human papilloma virus (HPV). For most women, the infection clears up on its own, but for others it develops into cancer. Other risk factors for cervical cancer include smoking, risky sexual behavior, HIV and Chlamydia infections, poor diets and oral contraceptives.
How can I protect myself?
The HPV vaccine, only available to women up to 26-years old, protects against the two most common strains of the virus while the HPV test detects 13 high-risk strains that can cause cervical cancer. While a Pap test alone can fail to detect cancerous cells up to 50% of the time, combining one with an HPV test (recommended for women 30 and older) will decrease your risk of developing the disease. Be sure to ask your doc to obtain cells for both tests during your routine visits.
To learn more about cervical cancer, prevention methods and treatment options, visit the American Cancer Society.
To help women around the world, join the Pearl of Wisdom Campaign to Prevent Cervical Cancer, a global effort to raise awareness for cervical cancer prevention. Visit pearlofwisdom.us to purchase their pin and help fund their initiative.