January Is Cervical Health Awareness Month

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TRENTON–In observance of Cervical Health Awareness Month, the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services is reminding all women to speak with their health care providers to learn what can be done to help prevent cervical cancer.

“Cervical cancer is largely a preventable disease, yet worldwide one woman will die every two minutes from this disease,” said Dr. Poonam Alaigh, commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services. “The first line of defense is prevention, so I urge all women to get Pap tests regularly, lead healthy lifestyles and to take advantage of state programs and resources that are available.”

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The American Cancer Society reported that in 2010, approximately 12,200 cases of invasive cervical cancer were expected to be diagnosed in the United States resulting in 4,210 deaths.

In New Jersey, 436 cases of invasive cervical cancer were diagnosed in 2007.  In 2006, 148 deaths occurred from cervical cancer.

“Cervical cancer is closely associated with the human papillomavirus virus (HPV) that is detected through a Pap test,” noted Dr. Alaigh.   “Up to 80 percent of women will acquire an HPV infection in their lifetime and almost 50 percent of these infections will be a cancer-causing virus type.  Diagnosing HPV early is a key measure for successfully treating and preventing cervical cancer.”

New Jersey’s Cancer Education and Early Detection (NJCEED) program provides comprehensive outreach, education, screening, case management, tracking and follow-up services for cervical and other cancers for women at or below 250% of the federal poverty level.  Visit New Jersey NJCEED website for more information.

Woman looking for more information on Cervical Cancer and Pap test guidelines can visit the NJDHSS Office of Cancer Control and Prevention.

About Cervical Cancer:

  • Cervical cancer is caused by certain types of a virus called human papillomavirus (HPV).
  • Women remain vulnerable to HPV infection throughout their sexually active life.
  • Advances in Pap testing in the 1990’s have lead to a 70% reduction in cervical cancer rates in women.
  • The most effective means of tackling cervical cancer is through prevention. It is now possible to vaccinate against most common cancer-causing strains of HPV.

How often should women have a Pap test?

  • Starting at age 21, have a Pap test every 2 years.
  • If you are 30 years old and older and have had 3 normal Pap tests for 3 years in a row, talk to your doctor about spacing out Pap tests to every 3 years.
  • If you are over 65 years old, ask your doctor if you can stop having Pap tests.

Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a common virus that is passed through genital contact, most often during vaginal and anal sex. HPV may also be passed on during oral sex and genital-to-genital contact. HPV can be passed on between straight and same-sex partners—even when the infected partner has no signs or symptoms.  There are more than 40 HPV types that can infect the genital areas of males and females. HPV is the major cause of cervical cancer in women.

There are two HPV vaccines licensed in the United States: Cervarix® and Gardasil®. Both vaccines protect against the types of HPV that cause up to 70% of all cervical cancers.

Gardasil® also protects against the types of HPV that cause up to 90% of genital warts and is licensed for both males and females. Neither vaccine will treat existing HPV infections or complications.


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