FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. — January is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month. Cervical cancer used to be one of the most common causes of cancer death for women in the United States. Thankfully, this rate has decreased over the past 30 years.

It’s estimated that more than 12,000 new cases of invasive cervical cancer will be diagnosed this year and about 4,200 women will die from cervical cancer.

Cervical cancer deaths have decreased by more than 50 percent due to regular screening tests that detect abnormalities before cancer develops.

Regular Pap tests that screen for cervical cancer helps detect abnormal cells before they become cervical cancer.

HPV is one of the leading causes of cervical cancer. The majority of cervical cancer and pre-cancerous lesions are caused by two specific types of HPV; HPV-16 and HPV-18. These two types account for 70 percent of all cervical cancers.

The key to decreasing the number of deaths related to cervical cancer are prevention and early detection.

Well woman exams, Pap test and HPV testing are keys to detecting abnormal cells before they progress to cancer.

There is an HPV vaccine available to help prevent contracting HPV. The vaccine works best when given at age 11 or 12. Currently, routine vaccination for girls and boys should start at age 11 but can be given as early as age 9. The vaccination is given in 3 parts over a series of months and is recommended for all males age 13-21 and all females from age 13-26.

The best prevention is early detection and routine screenings with your primary care doctor should begin as early as possible.