OCONTO — January is Cervical Health Awareness month, a time set aside to help raise awareness about cervical cancer prevention. Bellin Health is using the occasion to encourage area women to schedule a routine pap smear – a highly effective screening tool for early detection and prevention.
According to the American Cancer Society, 3,870 American women were expected to die from cervical cancer in 2008 and more than 11,000 cases were expected to be diagnosed by year’s end. Such statistics are why Bellin strongly encourages preventative measures to help reduce the incidence of cervical cancer.
“The most elementary step a woman can take to at least detect any cervical abnormalities is to get a regular pap smear,” said Amanda Westmoreland, a physician’s assistant at Bellin Health Family Medical Center-Oconto. “Although technically not a diagnostic test, regular pap smears can help identify changes in the cervix long before they become cancerous.”
Most cervical cancers are related to the human papillomavirus (HPV), a virus transmitted through sexual contact. That’s why the HPV vaccine is another method of preventing cervical cancer. It targets the types of HPV that most commonly cause the disease.
Abstaining from sexual contact, intercourse or limiting the number of sexual partners are all ways to further reduce the likelihood of contracting cervical cancer.
Cigarette smoking also increases the risk of cervical cancer, Westmoreland said. “Inhaling secondhand smoke also can increase the risk of developing cell changes that can eventually lead to cervical cancer.”
For more information, or to schedule an appointment, please call (920) 834-8833.