January is National Cervical Cancer Awareness Month, and Planned Parenthood Los Angeles is encouraging women to get vaccinated and undergo screenings to protect themselves from the deadly disease.
Congress designated January as Cervical Cancer Awareness Month to raise awareness and prompt action regarding cervical cancer, which the American Cancer Society estimates will be diagnosed in approximately 14,000 American women in 2023. Nearly 4,300 women die in the United States each year from the disease. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Hispanic women have the highest rates of new cervical cancer diagnoses. Native American women have the second highest rate of new diagnoses, followed by Black women and white women. Although Hispanic women experience the highest rates of cervical cancer, Black women suffer the highest rate of deaths due to the disease.
“What I want people to know is that we have ways to greatly decrease their risk of cervical cancer with the HPV vaccines, as well as with screening tests,” said Kara James, a nurse practitioner with Planned Parenthood Los Angeles. “January is a great reminder that there are resources and support to protect people from this disease and to take the first step to schedule an appointment with a health care provider.”
The leading cause of nearly all cases of cervical cancer is the human papillomavirus, of HPV, a sexually transmitted disease. Currently, three approved vaccines prevent infection with specific subtypes of HPV, including two high-risk HPVs that cause 70% of cervical cancers. HPV vaccines are generally recommended for patients ages 11-26.
Planned Parenthood Los Angeles offers physical and mental health care for men and women, including cervical cancer screenings and vaccines. Last year, Planned Parenthood Los Angeles provided 7,286 cervical cancer screenings throughout the county. In addition to clinical care, Planned Parenthood provides education and resources to help women prevent cervical cancer or detect it early, when it is more treatable.
When women turn 21, scheduling screening tests such as the pap smear is another critical step for early detection. The procedure may indicate whether a patient has or is likely to develop cervical cancer.
“We know that having a pap smear can be intimidating, but our health care providers are there to make our patients feel comfortable and cared for while ensuring that we are doing all we can to protect their health,” James said. “Getting screened for cervical cancer and vaccinated for HPV are two of the best actions a person can take to protect their health, and we aim to answer all questions and support our patients at every step.”
For information, visit plannedparenthood.org/health-center.