It’s Time to Prioritize Your Cervical Health

By Marjorie Seale
Clinical Services Director, Planned Parenthood of Greater New York

Cervical cancer is one of the most preventable cancers, yet Latinas and Black women suffer disproportionately from cervical cancer due to structural inequities in health care. January is Cervical Health Awareness Month — a good time to check in with your health care provider to get a screening.

Cervical cancer is caused by certain types of​​ human papillomavirus or HPV​, the most common sexually transmitted infection. Smoking, having multiple partners, and not practicing protected sex increases a person’s risk of contracting HPV. In most cases, HPV is harmless and goes away on its own —but high-risk HPV can lead to cancer. There is no cure for HPV, but a vaccine is one of the best ways to prevent the spread cervical, vulvar, penile, anal, mouth, and throat cancers caused by human papillomavirus.

The Center for Disease Control recommends that all young people get the vaccine at 11 or 12 years old, before they are sexually active. Research shows, young people who get the HPV vaccine are no more likely to have sex than those who don’t; and it offers parents a good opportunity to talk with their kids about sexual health and relationships. Planned Parenthood of Greater New York offers digital tools and resources to help parents and caregivers to open up the lines of conversation with their children and teens about sexuality.

As a health care provider at Planned Parenthood of Greater New York (PPGNY), I know firsthand how important cervical cancer screenings are to saving lives. Though cervical cancer is still a leading cause of death for women ​in Latin America and the Caribbean​, here in the U.S. as many as 93% of cervical cancer cases could be avoided by screening and the HPV vaccine. With early detection, the five-year survival rate for cervical cancer is 92%.

At Planned Parenthood of Greater New York, we are experts in sexual and reproductive health. We are available to help you access accurate, culturally-competent information and connect you to the care you need to live a healthy, happy life.

Planned Parenthood’s doors are open to everyone — regardless of income, race, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, or immigration status. We believe that all people deserve high-quality, affordable health care and accurate, compassionate sexual health information — no matter who they are or where they live. You can book an in-person or telehealth appointment online at or by calling 1-800-230-PLAN.

Your reproductive health care should be treated no differently than other forms of healthcare. Cervical cancer screenings — for all people with a cervix — are standard medical care.

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