You may know Erin Andrews as an NFL sideline reporter, co-host on the television show “Dancing with the Stars” or as the victim of a stalking incident and subsequent defendant in a highly publicized trial.  And now, the sportscaster/television personality has gone public with a private battle against cervical cancer.

Through her announcement, Andrews, who underwent a successful surgery for the condition, has helped raise awareness of cervical cancer and the importance of routine screenings.

Drs. Cecelia Boardman and Tyler Ford of HCA Virginia Physicians share more details about how women can protect themselves from human papillomavirus (HPV), a condition that has been shown to be the precursor to most cases of cervical cancer.

What is HPV?

About 79 million Americans currently have HPV and about 70 percent will come into contact with it during their lifetime.  HPV is passed from one person to another by skin-to-skin contact.  Many who are infected never realize it as they are able to clear the infection without any treatment.  In some women, however, the infection persists and can lead to cervical cancer.

HPV can be prevented with the HPV vaccine (it is FDA approved for ages 9-26 as a primary prevention tool.

And Cervical Cancer?

Cervical cancer is a slow-growing cancer that can be detected via a regular pap test, although many cases of cervical cancer occur in women who haven’t had a pap test in many years.  This test helps detect precancerous cell changes, leading to early intervention and treatment.

Cervical cancer can often be prevented with early vaccinations, regular screenings (pap smears) and treatment of pre-invasive disease (secondary prevention).

Sarah Cannon, the Cancer Institute of HCA, supports the following guidelines:

  • Women between ages 21 and 29 should have a pap test every three years.
  • Women between the ages of 30 and 65 should have a pap test plus an HPV test every five years.
  • Women over age 65 who have had regular cervical cancer testing with normal results should not be tested for cervical cancer.
  • Women with an abnormal diagnosis should continue to be tested for 20 years after that diagnosis, even if testing continues past age 65.
  • A woman whose uterus and cervix have been removed for non-cervical cancer reasons, and who has no history of cervical or pre-cervical cancer, should not be tested.

So with that in mind, visit Sarah Cannon here for the top five facts you should know about cervical cancer—all designed to help reduce your risk of developing the disease.

January is National Cervical Cancer Awareness Month.