January is not only the beginning of a new year, but it’s also cervical cancer awareness month! Most people still don’t know what cervical cancer is, that the main culprit is the human papillomavirus (HPV), and that there is a vaccine!
I remember being a sophomore in college and going for my annual checkup at the student center, only to receive a call that I had HPV. This was the nineties, so as you can imagine there was even less information back then.
I thought I was going to die, and I was so ashamed that something I did caused this. I didn’t know that HPV is as common as the common flu, affecting as much as 75% of the U.S. population! No one told me that. I did what most women do, and blamed myself and cried myself to sleep for many, many nights.
Fast forward to three years, yes three years because that’s how long it took for me to have the guts to see a gynecologist again (crazy right). At that next visit there were no signs of HPV anymore in my body. You see, that’s how HPV works for most of us. Very simply put, it comes and then “disappears.” But for others if left unmonitored it can develop into cervical cancer. I hate to say I was lucky, but I was. I let that virus go unmonitored in my body and I was lucky that it didn’t develop into cancer. I was young, dumb and ashamed, I admit it! But I will never, ever let my fear or what society thinks stop me from seeking the care I need again in the future.
I share my story because although it’s now 2015, I know there are still many women out there who think that they are alone, and you’re not. Also because it is a sexually transmitted infection, we seem to carry some shame over having HPV, versus something else like say breast cancer. It’s the absolute truth and I hope our society stops over sexualizing women and then shaming them and their bodies at the same time. 75% of the population with HPV includes women and men.
Here are a few important facts to read in my latest article in Mama y Famila to help get you and your family informed. Last month another vaccine was approved, Gardasil 9, that has the potential to prevent approximately 90 percent of cervical, vulgar, vagina, and anal cancers. Amazing!
The article is in Spanish, but you can click the translate button up top for English. Don’t forget to read and share here.