Nearly 4,000 women in America will die this year from cervical cancer. These cancers are, largely, preventable, and raising public awareness can save lives. It's why the U.S. Congress has designated January as Cervical Health Awareness Month.
Cervical cancer is the only cancer known to be primarily caused by a common virus, the Humanpapillomavirus (HPV). In the United States, 11,000 new cases of cervical cancer will be diagnosed in 2010 from HPV caused tumors. HPVs are sexually transmitted via skin-to-skin contact. Recent research indicates the virus also cause some cases of cancers of the mouth, anus, head and neck in men and women.
Cervical cancer often is stigmatized as a disease acquired as a result of promiscuous behavior. While risks of acquiring a high-risk HPV increase with the number of one's sexual partners, persons in longtime monogamous relationships can be infected from a lone sexual encounter that occurred years, even decades, earlier.
Most women, and men, acquire a HPV infection during their lifetimes. Fortunately, most HPV infections are benign and disappear spontaneously. Some, however, persist.
Of more than 100 known HPVs, only about 15 are high-risk viruses. Cervical cancers caused by high-risk HPVs usually develop slowly and may grow, often asymptomatically, for years prior to medical detection.
Pap test screening is the first line of defense against cervical cancer. Pap tests are recommended for women every other year after the age of 21. Regular gynecological Pap tests detect most cell changes due to HPV long before they become cancer. Early detection of these precancers can be effectively treated before they become malignant. Unfortunately, four out of five women do not receive their regular Pap Test. In 2009 more than half of the women diagnosed with cervical cancer either never had a Pap or were not screened in the last five years.
In recent years, breakthrough vaccines have been developed that protect against the HPV types responsible for an estimated 70% of cervical cancers.
There is no correlation between the genital human Papillomavirus (HPV) and the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).
The National Cervical Cancer Coalition (NCCC) founded in 1996, is a grassroots nonprofit organization dedicated to serving women with, or at risk for, cervical cancer and HPV disease. For additional information phone Rachel Biety, 818.909.3849 and visit our website at www.nccc-online.org.
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