Another Reason to Put Your Cervical Health First

January 18, 2024

Recent findings from the CDC show that HPV is having a devastating effect in Mississippi. Mississippi has the second highest rate of cervical cancer, tied with Alabama, and one of the highest cancer diagnosis rates in the nation. According to the Mississippi State Department of Health (MSDH), the largest and only known cause of cervical cancer is HPV. 

The good news? Adopting healthy behaviors can turn the tide. Here’s what you need to know:


The Deets on HPV

HPV (human papillomavirus) is the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI). It’s a group of more than 200 types of viruses that can be passed through oral or penetrative sex. In most cases, those infected with HPV show no signs or symptoms, however, the virus can still be transmitted.

Because there are so many different types of HPV, a person can be infected by different strains. In addition to causing cervical cancer, HPV can cause:

  • Genital warts 
  • Recurrent respiratory papillomatosis (RRP)
    • A rare condition in which warts grow in the throat
  • Other cancers including: 
    • Cancer of the vulva, vagina, penis, or anus
    • Oropharyngeal cancer (cancer in the back of throat, including the base of the tongue and tonsils)

Get Yearly Wellness Checks

HPV is common, so staying protected is essential. According to the National Cancer Institute (NCI), “nearly all sexually active people, regardless of their sex, gender identity, or sexual orientation, are infected with HPV within months to a few years of becoming sexually active. Around half of these infections are with a high-risk HPV type.”

Using condoms and dental dams when hooking up is a great way to stay safe against HPV. And while it doesn’t seem like it, making those yearly wellness checks is another way to stay protected. While it’s true your body’s immune system usually fights cells infected with HPV, sometimes these infected cells remain and continue to replicate and become precancerous. Pap smears help doctors detect precancerous cells on the cervix and begin treatment early, increasing the chances of recovery. 


Get Vaccinated

According to the CDC, HPV vaccination is recommended for anyone aged 9 to 26, and is given in three doses for people over the age of 15. Gardasil 9 is currently the only available vaccine for HPV in the United States and prevents nine types of HPV:

  • HPV types 6 and 11, which cause 90% of genital warts
  • HPV types 16 and 18, two high-risk HPVs that cause about 70% of cervical cancers and an even higher percentage of some of the other HPV-caused cancers 
  • HPV types 31, 33, 45, 52, and 58, high-risk HPVs that account for an additional 10% to 20% of cervical cancers (source: NCI)

The vaccine has been studied for over 12 years, is safe, and so readily available you could get vaccinated at Walgreens–although of course you can also get it through a clinic or doctor’s office. Use our clinic finder to locate a provider near you. 


Where to Learn More

Another Reason to Put Your Cervical Health First - Fact Not Fiction