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January is Cervical Health Awareness Month. It was created to shed light on how women can protect themselves from HPV (human papillomavirus) and cervical cancer. HPV is a very common infection that spreads through sexual activity, and it causes almost all cases of cervical cancer.

Awareness campaigns and improved testing are changing the statistics for the better. However, more than nine of every 10 cases of cervical cancer are caused by HPV. Cervical cancer can be largely prevented by the HPV vaccine.

  • Even so, every year in the United States, an estimated 200,000 women are diagnosed with a cervical pre-cancer, or abnormal cells on the cervix, which can lead to cancer.
  • Cervical cancer was once the leading cause of cancer deaths among women in the United States. Still, more than 4,000 women die from the disease each year.

HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI). It is spread through intimate skin-to-skin contact. Most sexually active women and men will be infected at some point in their lives, and some may be repeatedly infected.

In addition to cervical cancer, HPV can cause other types of cancers in both men and women, including:

  • Vaginal and vulvar cancer in women
  • Penile cancer in men
  • Anal, throat, and tongue cancer in both men and women

There are many types of HPV, and many do not cause problems. HPV infections usually clear up without any intervention within a few months after acquisition, and about 90 percent clear within two years. A small proportion of infections with certain types of HPV can persist and progress to cervical cancer.

Although most HPV infections clear up on their own, as do most pre-cancerous lesions, there is a risk for all women that HPV infection may become chronic and pre-cancerous lesions progress to invasive cervical cancer.

It takes 15 to 20 years for cervical cancer to develop in women with normal immune systems. It can take only five to 10 years in women with weakened immune systems, such as those with untreated HIV infection.

Based on a person’s age, overall health, and personal risk of cervical cancer, some things can be done that may prevent pre-cancers and conditions that lead to pre-cancers.

Prevention

HPV vaccines are available to help protect children and young adults against certain HPV infections. These vaccines protect against infection with the HPV types most commonly linked to cancer.

To be most effective, the HPV vaccines should be given before a person becomes sexually active. The reason is that these vaccines only work to prevent HPV infection — they will not treat an infection that is already there.

While the HPV vaccine can be started at age 9, the CDC recommends all boys and girls get two doses of the HPV vaccine at ages 11 or 12.

Other things that may help lower the risk for cervical cancer include:

  • Don’t smoke
  • Use condoms during sex
  • Limit the number of sexual partners

Women’s Health

While HPV affects both women and men, there are conditions that affect women more than men and this month is the perfect time to establish a health baseline that gives a fresh look into overall health conditions.  Any Lab Test Now® has a Comprehensive Female Health Panel that looks at hormone imbalances and is designed for women at all stages of their life to help them make informed decisions about their healthcare goals for the new year. It includes blood counts, a metabolic panel which includes kidney and liver functions, female hormones, thyroid, heart health, and nutritional status.

Screening Tests

One of the most important things a person can do to prevent cervical cancer is to get regular screening tests starting at age 21.

There are several options available. One is a pap test, which looks for pre-cancerous cells on the cervix that could turn into cervical cancer if not detected early and treated appropriately. This test must be performed in a doctor’s office or medical clinic setting.

The second option is an HPV test. This test looks for the human papillomavirus, which can cause pre-cancerous cell changes. While this test can be done in a doctor’s office, it is also available in a take-home test kit.

Any Lab Test Now offers HPV screening tests for both women and men, which can be ordered online from select locations and conducted in the privacy and comfort of their own home.

The kit is easy. After a sample is collected, the specimen is sent to the testing laboratory using the prepaid shipping envelope and label contained in the collection kit.

If the test is positive for HPV, we recommend sharing the results with a primary care physician or gynecologist or contact our telemedicine partner, DialCare.

It is also a good idea to share the results with recent sexual partners so they can get tested as well.

Click here to learn more about the HPV test for women.

Click here to learn more about the HPV test for men.

Be at Ease

Please check the website for a location near you. You may be able to purchase your HPV test in-store. You can be at ease knowing Any Lab Test Now provides a safe and clean location as each of our 185+ stores is sanitized several times a day, in accordance with the CDC’s protocols. Any Lab Test Now is a committed partner in helping you manage your family’s healthcare so you can make educated decisions that will directly affect your quality of life.

Find your closest Any Lab Test Now store at www.anylabtestnow.com