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Join Atrium Health Navicent in Raising Awareness about Cervical Cancer

Physicians encourage HPV vaccination and screenings for early detection and treatment

January is National Cervical Cancer Awareness Month and doctors at Atrium Health Navicent invite the community to help raise awareness about cervical cancer by encouraging women to make their annual gynecology visits a priority.

The American Cancer Society (ACS) has estimated about 14,100 new cases of invasive cervical cancer would be diagnosed in the United States in 2022, leading to about 4,280 deaths. Hispanic women have the highest rates of developing cervical cancer, and Black women have the highest rates of dying from the disease.

Cervical cancer is most frequently diagnosed in women between the ages of 35 and 44. Many older women don’t realize that the risk of developing cervical cancer is still present as they age. More than 20 percent of cases of cervical cancer are found in women over 65.

Early on, cervical cancer may not cause apparent signs and symptoms. Advanced cervical cancer may cause abnormal bleeding or discharge from the vagina, such as bleeding after sex. If you have any of these signs, see your doctor. The signs and symptoms may be caused by something other than cancer, but the only way to know for sure is to see your doctor.

“It’s so important for women to keep their annual visits with their OB/GYN. Each exam includes a review of your medical history, routine vitals, a breast exam, palpation of the abdomen and lymph nodes, and then a pelvic exam, if indicated. Routine labs are normally ordered to monitor liver functions, cholesterol and possibly hormone levels. In other words, an annual visit to your OB/GYN could identify something going on in your body before it becomes serious,” said Dr. Adrienne Jones, an Atrium Health Navicent OB/GYN.

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. The screening procedure can detect changes in the cervix before cancer develops and can also identify cervical cancer early, when it's easier to treat.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued guidelines for cervical cancer screenings, including Pap smear tests and screenings for human papillomavirus (HPV). They are broken down by age:

• If you are 21 to 29 years old

You should start getting Pap tests at age 21. If your Pap test result is normal, your doctor may tell you that you can wait three years until your next Pap test.

• If you are 30 to 65 years old:

Talk to your doctor about which testing option is right for you

A Pap test only. If your result is normal, your doctor may tell you that you can wait three years until your next Pap test.

An HPV test only. This is called primary HPV testing. If your result is normal, your doctor may tell you that you can wait five years until your next screening test.

An HPV test along with the Pap test. This is called co-testing. If both of your results are normal, your doctor may tell you that you can wait five years until your next screening test.

• If you are older than 65: Your doctor may tell you that you don’t need to be screened anymore if:

You have had normal screening test results for several years; or You have had your cervix removed as part of a total hysterectomy for non-cancerous conditions, like fibroids.

“Cervical cancer is preventable with appropriate screening and surveillance. A Pap smear finds changes in cells of the cervix that can indicate future cancer. Regular screenings will show these cell changes and allow for early prevention or intervention,” Jones said.

Almost all cervical cancers are caused by human papillomavirus (HPV) infection. HPV is a common virus that can be passed from one person to another during sex. There are many types of HPV. Some HPV types can cause changes on a woman’s cervix that can lead to cervical cancer over time, while other types can cause genital or skin warts.

According to the ACS, HPV is the leading cause of cervical cancer, and almost 35,000 men and women are diagnosed with HPV cancers in the United States every year. HPV is so common that most people get it at some time in their lives. HPV usually causes no symptoms so you can’t tell that you have it. For most women, HPV will go away on its own; however, if it does not, there is a chance that over time it may cause 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.

The CDC has offered recommendations for HPV vaccines:

• The HPV vaccine is recommended for routine vaccination at age 11 or 12 years. (Vaccination can be started at age 9.)

• Vaccination is also recommended for everyone through age 26, if not adequately vaccinated when younger. The vaccine is given as a series of either two or three doses, depending on age at initial vaccination.

• Some adults ages 27 through 45 years may decide to get the HPV vaccine based on a discussion with their doctor, if they did not get adequately vaccinated when they were younger.

Atrium Health Navicent offers OB/GYN care in Macon and Forsyth. For more information, and to find a doctor, visit

For information about services available at the Atrium Health Navicent Peyton Anderson Cancer Center, ranging from prevention and diagnosis to treatment and survivorship, call 478-633-3000. For more information about well-child visits and recommended immunizations, visit

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 wellbeing 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

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