Did you know that January is designated as Cervical Cancer Awareness Month?

Cervical cancer develops the narrow opening into the uterus from the vagina.

The National Cervical Cancer Coalition estimates that more than 13,000 women in the U.S. are diagnosed with cervical cancer every year. More than 4,000 women a year die from the disease. The NCCC adds that cervical cancer is the fourth most common type of cancer affecting women worldwide.

We sat down with Dr. Ashley Pirisino who specializes in family medicine at Methodist Family Health Center–Waxahachie. As she explained, there is good news despite the cancer’s prevalence.

“Cervical cancer is a highly preventable disease,” Pirisino said. “There are likely many reasons for why it is still so prevalent. The most important part of prevention is awareness. The link between the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) and both cervical cancer and pre-cancer has been a major focus within the medical community. We are actively trying to publicize this link via the ever-expanding recommendations for the HPV vaccine. There have also been changes for cervical cancer screening in the last five or so years that women likely may not be aware of.”

Pirisino emphasized that regular testing is important to “catch the problem early” and possibly “prevent cancer.”

“There are a lot of misconceptions surrounding cervical cancer that need to be dispelled,” Pirisino said. “Most importantly, just because you aren’t having any identifiable symptoms does not mean you can skip your check-up and Pap smear.”

Speak with your healthcare provider who may be able to provide additional recommendations.