Take charge of your health

Thirteen thousand American women are diagnosed with cervical cancer each year, but the disease is preventable and curable.

Women and those who love them: What better day than today to catch up on female-specific health and well-being? Annual wellness/well woman exams mean prevention – and early detection – of serious health issues, including breast and cervical cancer. In fact, January is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month, so now is an ideal time to set a reminder on your calendar for a yearly appointment with a healthcare provider.

Regular screenings most women should have include the Pap and HPV, or human papillomavirus, tests. HPV is a very common sexually transmissible virus that can cause cervical cancer. According to the Foundation for Women’s Cancer, HPV infection is present in 45 percent of men between the ages of 18 and 59, and 40 percent of women between the ages of 18 and 59.

There is a safe vaccine available to prevent HPV. The Centers for Disease Control recommends this vaccination for everyone up to age 26. Two doses of the HPV vaccine are recommended for all boys and girls at ages 11-12; the vaccine can be given as early as age nine. If you wait until children are older, they may need three doses instead of two. Children who start the vaccine series on or after their fifteenth birthday need three shots given over six months.

 In addition, adults aged 27 through 45 who are not already vaccinated may decide to get the vaccine after speaking with their doctor about their risk for new HPV infections and the possible benefits of vaccination. HPV vaccination in this age range provides less benefit, as more people have already been exposed to HPV.

Ask your healthcare provider how often you should be screened and which tests are right for you. Most insurance plans cover well-woman visits and cervical cancer screening. This means that, depending on your insurance, you can receive these services free of charge. Please ask your insurer for details.

Taking that first step is the most important one of all, and many resources are available to make 2020 your healthiest year yet. If you are located in the Verde Valley, consider making an appointment at Northern Arizona Healthcare – Cottonwood’s A Center for Women by calling 928-634-2015, or schedule with your primary care provider.