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January is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month; Young People Urged to Get Vaccine

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The vaccines are approved for those age 11 to 39; Rutgers doctor urges people to quit smoking, a risk factor

January is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month.

Almost 15 thousand new cases were diagnosed in the US last year.

But Dr. Ruth Stephenson of the Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey said there are vaccines on the market to protect against the virus that usually causes cervical cancer.

“They’re FDA-approved for all men and women ages 11 to 39, so basically we’re recommending all young people get vaccinated because that’s often the time where people are exposed to the HPV virus,” she said.

The virus is common. Most people are exposed to it at some point, but certain strains are more likely to cause cancer. She said the vaccine has been a lifesaver.

“The biggest breakthrough in cervical cancer has been the HPV vaccine, we’re seeing cervical cancers go down across the world and in our country due to the vaccine, it’s important to see your gynecologist regularly and undergo Pap testing,” she said.

She said women are urged to begin Pap tests and cervical cancer screening at age 21.

Stephenson said there are also other ways to prevent cervical cancer.

“Smoking, immunosuppression, those sorts of things also put you at higher risk, so we encourage all women who have a history of HPV infection or cervical dysplasia or any cervical cancer to stop smoking because it can certainly affect their prognosis,” she said.