While many of us are shaking off the post-holiday blues and getting cracking on our resolutions, January also marks Cervical Health Awareness Month, a month designated to shining a spotlight on a wide range of cervical health issues, including human papillomavirus (HPV) and cervical cancer.
Cervical cancer, once one of the most common causes of cancer death in American women, occurs when cells in the cervix, the lower part of the uterus, slowly become abnormal.
There are two common types of cervical cancer, according to the American Cancer Society. As many as 90 percent of cases are squamous cell carcinomas, meaning the cancer cells cover the surface of the cervix. The majority of the remaining 10 percent of cases are adenocarcinomas, meaning the cancer starts in the gland cells that make mucus.
More than 12,000 new cases of cervical cancer that has spread outside the cervix are diagnosed every year in the U.S., and more than 4,000 women die from the disease each year. Most cases occur in women between the ages of 35 and 55, and when caught early enough, cervical cancer is highly treatable.
According to the American Cancer Society, other cervical cancer risk factors include smoking, a weakened immune system (such as in a person with HIV), having many pregnancies and being young during a first pregnancy, as well as family history and some medication and drug use.
While advancements have certainly been made in vaccinating against HPV, the advice hasn't changed in decades when it comes to combating cervical cancer, as can be seen in this 1979 article from the People magazine archives.
Can anything be done to prevent cervical cancer?
There is action a woman can take -- like having yearly Pap smears on an absolutely religious basis. Cervical cancer is a disease that can be prevented by early detection of precancerous changes in the cervix.
In hopes of inspiring more women to take the measures necessary to prevent this disease, here are some of the notable women who have battled cervical cancer.
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