This January, besides the start of a new year and a new millennium, it is National Cervical Cancer Awareness Month.
Today a website is being launched by women's health advocates to "TAKE THE PEARL PLEDGE” to protect themselves and others from cervical cancer - just click the button on the left.
By taking the pledge, you promise to make your gynecologic appointment, tell five friends about the pledge, and wear your pearl. Wear your own, your moms or grandmas, or you can get one on the site.
I was fortunate to be able to participate in a conference call last month discussing ways to prevent cervical cancer and advice on woman's health in general, and what women can do to help themselves. We heard a moving story of a cervical cancer survivor, Michelle Whitlock, who told us her own personal and heartfelt story, and I swear I teared up when she talked about having a baby. She lost her fertility, but was able to save her eggs before having a radical hysterectomy so she had her baby with a surrogate. My fertility issues were nothing compared to what she went through, but even though I considered adoption, I wanted to be pregnant so badly and am so grateful to have had two healthy pregnancies and a wonderful doctor.
Dr. Marie Savard was also on the call, and she recommended to not only ensure your doctor does an HPV test along with the pap, but have them send you the full results for your records. My doctor did that without being asked, but many just leave a simple phone message saying everything is okay. The pap test is important, but a woman can have the HPV virus and have a normal pap test.There have been some changes in guidelines for gynecological health and these are the recommendations.
- Girls and young women: Ask your healthcare provider about the HPV vaccine, which protects against the two types of HPV (human papillomavirus) that cause the majority of cervical cancers. The vaccines are recommended for girls 11 to 12 years old, and are approved for girls and young women up to age 26. Even women who have been vaccinated will still need to be screened.
- Women age 21 or older: Get the Pap test, which detects abnormal cells that can lead to cervical cancer.
- Women age 30 or older: Get the Pap test and the HPV test together as part of routine cervical cancer screening. The HPV test detects the virus that causes cervical cancer, identifying those women at increased risk who will need to be monitored more closely.
Cervical cancer is the second most common form of cancer for woman, and timely and proper exams and the vaccine now available can prevent nearly all of these cases. Go take the pledge today.