Take the opportunity to talk to your patients about this important aspect of their health
January 2016, Vol 4, No 1 - Inside Women’s Health

January is Cervical Health Awareness Month. Take this opportunity to talk to your patients and raise awareness about how women can protect themselves from human papillomavirus (HPV) and cervical cancer.

HPV impacts approximately 79 million people in the United States, and many people who are infected may not know that they have HPV.1 It is estimated to be the most common sexually transmitted disease in the United States, and by age 50 years, approximately 80% of women have been infected with some type of HPV infection. Patients should be reminded that a vaccine exists to prevent this disease. In addition, pharmacists and healthcare providers should also talk to parents and caregivers about how important it is for their preteens to receive the HPV vaccine, emphasizing that boys and girls should receive it.

Another important part of cervical health is cancer prevention. Cervical cancer is the second most common cancer in women worldwide; HPV has been identified in approximately 99% of patients with cervical cancer.2 Cervical cancer tends to occur during midlife, and approximately 20% of diagnoses are made in women aged ≥65 years. Patients need to be aware that >12,000 women will be diagnosed with cervical cancer each year, and >4000 will die from this cancer in the United States. Similar to HPV, cervical cancer is preventable. In fact, it is one of the most preventable types of cancers.

Patients should be encouraged to have regular screenings (ie, Pap tests) and follow-up care.1 Pharmacists and healthcare providers have an opportunity this January to start a conversation with their patients, and encourage women to get their annual well-woman visit. Patients should also be made aware that the Affordable Care Act covers well-woman visits and cervical cancer screenings.

In addition to speaking with patients about HPV vaccinations and cervical cancer screenings, pharmacists and healthcare providers can partner with other local groups, such as cancer networks and community health clinics, as well as offer free or reduced-cost “Pap days.”1 Raising awareness through banners, newsletters, and social media may also be effective ways to reach patients.




References

  1. US Department of Health & Human Services. January: cervical health awareness month. https://healthfinder.gov/NHO/JanuaryToolkit.aspx. Accessed January 5, 2016.
  2. National Cervical Cancer Coalition. Cervical cancer overview. www.nccc-online.org/hpvcervical-cancer/cervical-cancer-overview. Accessed January 5, 2016.
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