Breaking Stigmas & Barriers Around Cervical Health

As we kick off the new year, January brings Cervical Health Awareness Month—an opportunity to spotlight the crucial importance of cervical health and the role of preventive care. Let’s dive into the facts about early detection and the broader impact of cervical health on well-being.

Cervical cancer, a condition that’s both preventable and treatable when identified early, remains a significant health concern. Almost all cervical cancers are caused by human papillomavirus (HPV), a common virus passed during sex.

Anyone who is sexually active can contract HPV, regardless of their number of sexual partners. If you have HPV, don’t panic. More than 90% of sexually active men and 80% of sexually active women will be infected with HPV in their lifetime. Only about 10% of women with HPV infection on their cervix will develop long-lasting HPV infections putting them at risk for cervical cancer.

However, routine screenings like Pap smears and HPV tests are vital tools for early detection and prevention. Stressing the importance of regular check-ups empowers individuals to proactively manage their health, catching potential issues early on.

If you notice changes that seem unusual or experience potential signs of cancer, it’s crucial to schedule a prompt visit with your provider. Don’t hesitate to reach out, even if you’re uncertain or worried about the symptoms.

Symptoms to watch for include:

  • Vaginal bleeding after sex.
  • Vaginal bleeding after menopause.
  • Vaginal bleeding between periods or periods that are heavier or longer than normal.
  • Vaginal discharge that is watery, has a strong odor, or contains blood.
  • Pelvic pain or pain during sex.

While discussing intimate concerns may feel uncomfortable, rest assured that your conversations with your provider are confidential. Healthcare workers are accustomed to addressing personal matters and are committed to creating a supportive and comfortable environment for their patients.

In Douglas County, Heartland Community Health Center leads as the Title X provider, offering accessible and compassionate reproductive health services through its dedicated Family Planning Care Team. This initiative ensures individuals, regardless of background, have access to essential reproductive health services, fostering inclusivity and breaking down barriers.

When it comes to preventive care, vaccination against HPV plays a pivotal role in the fight against cervical cancer by providing protection against the most common types of human papillomavirus (HPV) that can lead to cervical cancer.

“The vaccine is a safe and effective means of preventing the spread of HPV and reducing the risk of cervical cancer,” notes Lisa Russell, Chief Clinical Officer at Heartland Community Health Center.

As the community faces the challenges of the new year, health experts emphasize the importance of prioritizing individual health and well-being. Comprehensive family planning services contribute to a healthier and more informed community, promoting inclusivity and understanding.

“In prioritizing your cervical health, you not only take control of your individual well-being but also contribute to the collective vitality of our community,” said Russell. “By fostering awareness and understanding, we create a community that thrives on mutual support and informed choices.”

Cervical Health Awareness Month serves as a poignant reminder that preventive care and family planning are integral components of healthcare. By prioritizing cervical health, supporting family planning services, and fostering open dialogue, we empower individuals to take control of their well-being, breaking down stigmas and promoting a healthier, more resilient community.