CARSON CITY, NV (KXNT) – More than 12,000 women in the United States are diagnosed with cervical cancer each year, according to the National Cancer Institute, and more than 4,000 women die from it every year. Health-care professionals are encouraging women through January and the rest of the year to get screened for cervical cancer.

According to the National Cancer Institute, cervical cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer deaths in women in their 20s and 30s, but health-care professionals say cervical cancer also is highly preventable. January marks Cervical Health Awareness Month, but with just a few days left in the month, health-care advocates are encouraging people to make it a priority to schedule a test, whenever you can. Lynn Erdman is C-E-O of the Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses, an organization that promotes the health of women and newborns.

“If you have not done anything about a Pap test or, you know, even have your HPV vaccine, which you can have up to age 26, then make a call. It could be February, March, it could be any time during the year. Just make that call and take some action to make sure you’re protecting yourself as well,” Erdman said.

Erdman said most women should start getting a Pap smear test at the age of 21. The test identifies if you have HPV or human papillomavirus or cervical cancer.

Erdman said the general rule is that women should get a Pap smear test every three years, and for those thinking of going for the first time, Erdman said the procedure is painless.

“If you are eligible or your doctor is offering, have an HPV test done, too, to see if you’ve got HPV. That’s a bold test and done in conjunction with the Pap test, but the Pap test will show you if there are any abnormalities in your cervical cells,” Erdman said.

There are several risk factors that may increase the chance of developing cervical cancer, including: HPV infection, smoking, being overweight and having a family history of cervical cancer.

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