In honor of Cervical Cancer Awareness Month FitNation dispels the myths and misconceptions about this dreaded disease.

It’s 9 a.m.; do you know what your cervix is doing? According to one study, chances are you have no idea. That’s right, a recent study by The Gynecologic Cancer Foundation found that 1 in 5 women are not even aware of what the cervix does.

But you do know that cervical cancer is a serious health threat to women, right? Even if you’re unclear on the details of what your cervix is up to at this very moment, you should at least know that the threat of cervical cancer is very real. According to the American Cancer Society, over 4,000 women died from cervical cancer in 2013. Because there is no sure-fire way to avoid getting cervical cancer, early detection through yearly Pap smears may be your best ally against this terrible disease.

January is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month, making it a great time to think about your cervical health. Below are a few questions you should ask yourself to determine how well you know your risk of cervical cancer.

What is HPV and does it cause cervical cancer?
The human papillomavirus—also known as HPV—is the most common form of sexually transmitted infections. There are over 40 types of HPV that can cause infection of the genital areas for both men and women. The two most common types of HPV are the origin of 75 percent of cervical cancers in North America.

Dr. Nina P. Bhatia is a Board Certified in Obstetrics & Genecology and specializes in Female Pelvic Medicine & Reconstructive Surgery. According to Dr. Bhatia: “Most women will be exposed to HPV during their lifetime, and usually these HPV infections will clear on their own. Having HPV is very common, but developing cervical cancer is not. If you are found to have HPV that does not mean that you will develop cervical cancer. It is important to have follow-up testing since persistent HPV infections can lead to the development of abnormal cells which can progress to cervical cancer.”

How important is it to get a yearly Pap test done?
New research by Censuswide for the charity Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust shows that nearly half of women aged 25-29 put off screenings for, on average, 15 months because they worry it will be painful and embarrassing. But Pap tests (or Pap smear) can help find cancer and precancerous cells in and around the cervix. Pap tests save lives! With early detection successful treatment can be given.

Are there ways to reduce the chances of cervical cancer other than early detection?
In addition to getting regular Pap tests done, it’s suggested that women under age 26 receive the HPV vaccine. Since most cases of cervical cancer are linked to HPV, the vaccination comes highly recommended. Being monogamous, using condoms or practicing abstinence can also help you avoid contracting HPV.

For more information on Cervical Cancer Awareness Month visit:
National Cervical Cancer Coalition
January Cervical Cancer Awareness Month Facebook Page