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Join Atrium Health Navicent in Observing Cervical Cancer Awareness Month

HPV vaccine can help protect children against cervical cancer later in life

In observance of Cervical Cancer Awareness month, doctors at Atrium Health Navicent Beverly Knight Olson Children’s Hospital urge parents to vaccinate their children against the human papillomavirus (HPV) to offer protection against cervical cancer later in life.

HPV is a common virus that can cause six types of cancer, and almost 35,000 men and women are diagnosed with HPV cancers in the United States every year. According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), HPV is the leading cause of cervical cancer.

Studies have shown that giving the HPV vaccine to boys and girls aged 9 to 12 can prevent more than 90 percent of HPV cancers as children grow older. The vaccine is safe, effective, and long lasting.

“It is extremely wonderful that we have a vaccine that helps prevent HPV cancers, including cervical cancer,” said Dr. Yameika Head, director of Clinical Practice – Pediatrics for Atrium Health Navicent Medical Group. “We must provide our children with the best protection we can. Allowing them to receive this vaccine while in their youth, allows for protection for them in the future.”

While cervical cancer was once one of the most common causes of cancer death for American women, the mortality rate dropped significantly with increased use of the Pap smear test, according to the ACS. This screening procedure can find changes in the cervix before cancer develops and it can also find cervical cancer early, when it's easier to cure. The HPV test is another screening test for cervical cancer.

“I believe that each child should receive the HPV vaccine between the ages of 9 and 12. This would drastically reduce the large number of abnormal Pap smears and pre-cancerous cervical conditions that gynecologists see on a regular basis. This one step in childhood improves a woman’s health for her entire lifetime,” said Dr. Felisha Kitchen, an Atrium Health Navicent obstetrician and gynecologist. ”It’s also important that women stay current on their well-woman visits to receive screenings to catch cervical cancer early, when treatment is most effective.”

Learn the facts about the HPV vaccine:

· The HPV vaccine works best when administered to children aged 9 to 12. Since vaccines are used to help prevent diseases, children are vaccinated before being exposed to an infection. Most people in the U.S. are exposed to HPV in their teens, so it’s best to get the vaccine before then. The body also produces the most antibodies to HPV when the vaccine is given in this age range. Young people aged 13 to 26 who have not been vaccinated, or who haven’t gotten all their doses, should get the vaccine as soon as possible. The ACS does not recommend HPV vaccination for anyone older than 26.

· The HPV vaccine is for boys and girls. HPV is so common that almost everyone (at least 8 out of 10 people in the U.S.) will come in contact with it at some point in their lives. HPV leads not only to cervical cancer, but also to cancers of the throat, vulva, vagina, penis and anus.

· The HPV vaccine is safe and lasts a long time. The HPV vaccine has been used since 2006, and went through extensive safety testing before becoming available. More than 270 million doses of the HPV vaccine have been given worldwide, including 120 million doses in the US. Like with any vaccination, there may be common mild side effects that go away quickly like headache or fever. Once your child has the vaccine, current research shows that there’s no sign the vaccine protection lessens with time. For more information about well-child visits and recommended immunizations, visit www.navicenthealth.org/service-center/children-s-health. For help finding a doctor, visit navicenthealth.org and click “Find a Doctor.”

About Atrium Health Navicent

Atrium Health Navicent is the leading provider of healthcare in central and south Georgia and is committed to its mission of elevating health and well-being through compassionate care. Atrium Health Navicent provides high-quality, personalized care in 53 specialties at more than 50 facilities throughout the region. As part of the largest, integrated, nonprofit health system in the Southeast, it is also able to tap into some of the nation’s leading medical experts and specialists with Atrium Health, allowing it to provide the best care close to home – including advanced innovations in virtual medicine and care. Throughout its 125-year history in the community, Atrium Health Navicent has remained dedicated to enhancing health and wellness for individuals throughout the region through nationally recognized quality care, community health initiatives and collaborative partnerships. It is also one of the leading teaching hospitals in the region, helping to ensure viability for rural health care for the next generation. For more information, please visit www.NavicentHealth.org.