Cervical cancer awareness month, health officials stress HPV vaccine

According to the LDH, only 23 percent of children under thirteen have completed the HPV vaccine in the Monroe region.
Published: Jan. 23, 2023 at 7:02 PM CST
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MONROE, La. (KNOE) - January is cervical cancer awareness month and the Louisiana Department of Health says death rates from cervical cancer are higher in Northeast Louisiana than in other parts of the country.

According to the LDH, only 23 percent of children under thirteen have completed the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine in the Monroe region, and around 23 percent have started it but have not completed it.

“So those are very low numbers and they aren’t the lowest among the regions, but these are children if they’re vaccinated, boys or girls will never get cervical cancer, or papillomas, all kinds of things, genital warts, it’s really a good thing to do,” said Region 6 Medical Director, Dr. David Holcombe.

Holcombe said cervical cancer is one of the only preventable cancers through vaccination, but a lot of children under thirteen haven’t gotten the vaccine.

“You have a lot of people who don’t see any interest, there’s also a fair amount of denial amongst some parents that their children will ever become sexually active and be exposed to HPV, which of course is not true at all,” said Holcombe.

Nationwide, Holcombe said two-thirds of the population is exposed to HPV once they become sexually active, which is also why it is important for women to get screened once they turn 21.

“Screenings are so important, starting at age 21, we start doing screening about every three years,” said family nurse practitioner, Tanasha Varinio. “Making sure you follow up with your primary care provider or gynecologist in keeping up with those screenings and making sure you’re vaccinated.”

Varino said each year about 13,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer in the U.S., but if you’re diagnosed early, it can be cured.

“It’s a curable disease, but what happens is people don’t undergo the preventative care and then they’re diagnosed late or not at all,” said Holcombe.

Men can’t get cervical cancer, but they can get HPV which can lead to throat and neck cancer, that’s why Holcombe stressed the importance of the HPV vaccine for both men and women, ideally before becoming sexually active.