More women aware of cervical cancer

An increase in cervical cancer awareness is something some experts say has resulted in fewer women contracting the disease.

"Numbers have decreased," said Dee Desrocher, a nurse at Plattsburgh Pediatrics.

Desrocher said incoming female patients are always encouraged to protect themselves against cervical cancer. Females who have intercourse at an early age, have several sexual partners, and/or have unprotected sex are at a higher risk of contracting the disease.

Cervical cancer was once the leading cause of cancer death for women in the United States. However, over the past few years, women have been able to protect themselves from cervical cancer by learning more about the disease, as well as receiving the vaccination called Gardasil.

The vaccine, which is a series of three shots that last a lifetime, is recommended among female's ages 9 to 26. The vaccination prevents women from contracting the most common strands of the human papillomavirus, more commonly known as HPV, which is the leading cause of cervical cancer.

"There has been an increased in awareness of Cervical Cancer and its connection to HPV," said Martha Stahl, vice president for external affairs in the Plattsburgh office of Planned Parenthood.

Limited supplies of the free Gardasil vaccine are available at the Clinton County Health Department Health Services Unit, located at 133 Margaret St., but they won't last long.

"We have a limited supply," said Health Services Unit representative Maghan Parent.

Staying aware

Though January is National Cervical Cancer Awareness Month, women can prevent themselves from cervical cancer year-round by being vaccinated and scheduling regular screenings with their gynecologist. Even if a woman has already contracted HPV, she can still get the vaccine.

Stahl said there are several forms of HPV, mostly causing cervical cancer and genital warts. The virus is easily treatable if it's detected early in a papanicolaou examination.

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