January is National Cervical Health Awareness Month and it’s a wonderful opportunity to raise awareness about how women can protect themselves from HPV (human papillomavirus) and cervical cancer. HPV is a very common infection that spreads through sexual activity. It’s also a major cause of cervical cancer.
About 79 million Americans currently have HPV. Many people with HPV don’t know they are infected. The good news?
• The HPV vaccine (shot) can prevent HPV.
• Cervical cancer can often be prevented with regular screening tests (called Pap tests) and follow-up care.
A Pap test can help detect abnormal (changed) cells before they turn into cancer. Most deaths from cervical cancer can be prevented if women get regular Pap tests and follow-up care.
What can you do?
• If you are a women, get your well-woman exam this year.
• Did you know that the healthcare reform law covers well-woman visits and cervical cancer screening.This means that, depending on their insurance, women can get these services at no cost to them.
• Talk to your pre-teen’s doctor about the HPV vaccine. Both boys and girls need the vaccine.
Your child needs three shots to protect against HPV. He or she will need to get a second shot one to two months after the first shot. Then she’ll get a third shot six months after the first one.
It’s important that your child gets the HPV shots on schedule. To make sure you stay on track, schedule appointments for the second and third shots on the day that your child gets the first one.
What are the possible side effects of the HPV vaccine?
The most common side effects are pain, redness, or swelling near where the shot was given. Other common side effects are a low fever, nausea (upset stomach), headache, and feeling tired.