January is Cervical Health Awareness month, which should serve as a reminder to all those with a cervix to take the steps necessary to maintain good cervical health.
First, let’s refresh by addressing a few common questions:
What is a cervix?
The cervix is a canal that connects the uterus and the vagina.
Where is it located?
The cervix is located at the lower end of the uterus, or womb.
Why is it important?
The cervix is essential to reproductive health—it keeps unwanted bacteria and viruses out of the uterus, serves as a pathway for menstrual blood to exit, and produces a mucus barrier that can either prevent or allow sperm to enter the uterus and make its way to the egg.
Because it performs so many functions, it is imperative to maintain a healthy cervix. The cervix can be vulnerable to STDs, the most threatening of which is Human Papillomavirus, also known as HPV. While HPV can oftentimes have no symptoms, it can cause genital warts and in some cases, cancer of the cervix, vulva, vagina, penis, and anus. While not everyone has a cervix, anyone can get HPV!
Lowering Your Risk
SNAHC offers the HPV vaccine which helps protect you from certain strains of the virus. Ideally, the vaccine is distributed prior to becoming sexually active. The CDC recommends 11 to 12-year-olds get two doses of HPV vaccine to protect against cancers caused by HPV. If you are sexually active and haven’t been vaccinated, come in to our medical office for an HPV test and vaccine.
Cervical screenings are recommended for anyone with a cervix aged 21 or older—these are also offered at SNAHC!
SNAHC offers free condoms, dental dams, lube, and internal condoms in our medical offices as well as each of our patient restrooms. Non-latex condoms are available upon request.
Listen to your body
Cervical cancer is often referred to as “the silent killer” because symptoms can be hard to spot.
Here are a few to look out for:
- Spotting between periods
- Longer, heavier periods
- Bleeding after sex
- Increase in vaginal discharge
- Pain during sex
- Post-menopausal bleeding
- Consistent pelvic/low back pain
This month and beyond, it’s important to stay on top of your reproductive health! SNAHC offers confidential family planning services including:
- Birth control methods
- STI & HIV screenings
- Treatment & counseling for STIs including Hep C
- Partner treatment for Chlamydia and Gonorrhea
- Other reproductive health services