Atrium Health Navicent and Macon-Bibb County have designated January as Cervical Cancer Awareness Month in an effort to raise awareness about this disease. Cervical cancer affects over 11,500 American women annually, with an estimated 13,960 new cases in 2023, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS).
What Causes Cervical Cancer?
Cervical cancer is primarily caused by persistent infection with high-risk strains of the human papillomavirus (HPV), a common sexually transmitted infection. These infections can lead to abnormal cell growth in the cervix, ultimately progressing to cancer if left untreated. Factors such as weakened immune systems, other sexually transmitted infections, number of births, early pregnancy, hormonal contraceptive use, and smoking can increase the risk of cancer development.
How to Prevent Cervical Cancer
Prevention efforts focus on boosting public awareness, vaccination, and regular screening. HPV vaccines, particularly for girls aged 9–14 before sexual activity begins, are highly effective in preventing HPV infection and related cancers. Other preventive measures include avoiding smoking, using condoms, and voluntary male circumcision.
Regular cervical cancer screening, starting at age 30 (or 25 for women with HIV), is crucial for early detection and treatment of precancerous lesions. Treatment for precancers is generally simple and can prevent the development of cervical cancer. For those diagnosed with cervical cancer, early detection through symptom recognition and seeking medical advice promptly can significantly improve treatment outcomes. Management pathways, including multidisciplinary teams and holistic care, are vital for ensuring quality care and support for patients.
As efforts to scale up cervical screening continue, especially in low- and middle-income countries, expanded referral and cancer management strategies will be essential to address the increasing number of cases detected.
By spreading awareness and promoting preventive measures, organizations like Atrium Health Navicent and Macon-Bibb County aim to reduce the burden of cervical cancer and improve women’s health outcomes.