woman-receives-exam-resultsPart of the job that our Family Practice Center healthcare providers take considerable pride in is educating our patients and helping spread awareness of serious medical conditions and the risks they pose. This month, we wanted to focus on women’s health and one of the more common forms of gynecological cancer. January is Cervical Health Awareness Month, so we thought now would be a great time to discuss cervical cancer and how it can potentially be prevented.

Experts from the American Cancer Society estimate that over 14,100 new cases of invasive cervical cancer will be diagnosed this year in the US. Over 4,000 women will die of complications related to cervical cancer this year. Although cervical cancer was once one of the most common causes of cancer death for American women, this has steadily declined thanks to increased Pap testing in recent years.

Cervical cancer is most commonly detected in women between the ages of 35 and 44. The average age at diagnosis is 50. It is very rare for women younger than 20. Although there is a perception that there is little cervical cancer risk for older women, it’s a fact that over 20% of cases are found in women over 65, emphasizing the importance of awareness and Pap testing for women as they age.

The most proven and effective method for preventing cervical cancer is to undergo regular screening tests. Cervical cancer screening can help detect conditions that may lead to cancers, as well as pre-cancers before they can turn invasive and dangerous. The Pap test (or Pap smear) and the human papillomavirus (HPV) test are both trusted tests used during cervical cancer screening appointments.

Additional prevention steps like receiving an HPV vaccination are also very highly recommended. Because of the strong connection between HPV and cervical cancer, these vaccines can help prevent pre-cancers and cancers of the cervix. However, the vaccine must be administered before a woman reaches the age of 27, so this option is not available to everyone. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle, including eating right, exercising regularly, and not smoking can also help cut down a woman’s cervical cancer risk.

It’s important for our readers not just to heed these words, but to help spread the word about cervical health awareness to other women in their life. Understanding what you’re up against and taking a proactive approach to your reproductive health is critical in the fight against cervical cancer. Our providers, including Dr. Cassandra Barnes in Atlanta, have extensive experience with women’s health services and are available for appointments. For more information or to schedule an appointment with one of our healthcare providers, contact Family Practice Center at one of our four Atlanta area locations (Sandy Springs, Alpharetta, Canton, Cumming). You can also follow us on Facebook for additional practice updates, health tips, news, and much more.