The New Year is often a time for resolutions, life changes, and signing up for a gym. But something that may not be on your mind as we begin 2023 is cervical health. January is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month. Most often, cases of cervical cancer are caused by Human Papillomavirus, also known as HPV, which is transmitted sexually.
The HPV Vaccine
Long before most people are worried about cancer, preteens around the age of 11-12 years old are recommended to get the HPV vaccine. The HPV vaccine is most effective when given before a person becomes sexually active, which is why it is offered as early as nine years old. The HPV vaccine protects against types of HPV that often cause cervical cancer. If you do not have the vaccine, it’s best to receive it before age 26. If you are over the age of 26, it is best to talk with your doctor about the vaccine.
Even if you have the vaccine, it is vital that you get screened regularly starting at the age of 21. Symptoms of cervical cancer usually appear only after the cancer has spread. Screening yearly is the best way to prevent cervical cancer. Screenings allow abnormal cell changes and precancers to be found early before they turn into cancer. If caught early, this type of cancer is highly curable. HPV tests and Pap tests are necessary even if you did receive the vaccine because the HPV vaccine does not protect against all HPV types. To learn more about cervical cancer screenings and how often you should be screened, click here.
Early-stage symptoms of cervical cancer can include:
Symptoms of advanced cervical cancer can include:
Foreign Service Benefit Plan (FSBP) members that are age 18+ can earn a $25 wellness incentive after completing their cervical cancer screening. A cervical cancer screening is 100% covered with an in-network provider. FSBP covers 70% of the Plan allowance with an out-of-network provider. If you are overseas, it is also 100% covered. Call your doctor and schedule your cervical cancer screening today!