Guest Column by LeeAnn Johnson

Each year many of us identify a self-improvement goal we’d like to achieve in the coming year — a New Year’s resolution. Whether it’s vowing to get to the gym more often, eating healthier, volunteering more of our time to those in need, or spending more time with our loved ones, most of us dedicate ourselves to bettering ourselves, our families, and our communities.

This year, I’ve made it my New Year’s resolution to do what I can to raise awareness about cervical cancer, and what women can do to prevent and detect it. January is Cervical Health Awareness Month, and I urge women to talk with their doctors about the causes and risks of this disease that claims the lives of too many mothers, sisters, and daughters every year.

The key in treating many forms of cancer is early detection – especially cervical cancer. Seventy percent of cervical cancers are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV), and more than 50% of women will contract the virus in their lives without ever knowing it – which is why cervical cancer is known as the “silent killer.” For over 60 years, cervical cancer has been screened through a Pap test which is still one of the most effective ways for detecting pre-cancerous cells. This is why an annual checkup is so vitally important.

Additionally, HPV screenings are available if you are at risk for a specific strand of HPV that can cause cancer. HPV vaccines are available for girls ages 9-26. Early detection and improved medicine are primary reasons that the spread of HPV in young women has been reduced by half since 2006.

Though advances in medical technology have contributed to a decline in deaths from cervical cancer, there is still much work to be done. I urge all the women across Eastern and Southeastern Ohio — and across the country — to begin this year by pledging to learn more about cervical cancer, and other preventable cancers. Get yourself checked; talk to your health care professional about steps you can take to reduce your risk. And finally, if you would like additional information on cancer prevention, please visit the Prevent Cancer Foundation’s website at www.preventcancer.org

LeeAnn Johnson is the wife of Representative Bill Johnson and is a member of the Congressional Families Cancer Prevention Program of the Prevent Cancer Foundation.