DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN)– January is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month and doctors are encouraging women to get informed, get screened and get vaccinated.

Dr. Brittany Davidson is a gynecologic oncologist with Duke Health. She says cervical cancer is preventable. 

“Cervical cancer is probably one of the cancers that we are closest to being able to eliminate in the United States,” said Davidson. “We have the prevention tools through HPV vaccines and HPV and Pap smear screening, and we need to be able to implement this widely to be able to reach our patients.”

Human papillomavirus or HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the U.S., according to the CDC. 

“It is a cancer-causing virus,” said Davidson. 

The American Cancer Society says in recent years, the HPV test was approved as another screening test for cervical cancer since almost all cervical cancers are caused by HPV.

Both tests, HPV and Pap smear, can be done in a doctor’s office or clinic.

Davidson encourages patients to stay on top of routine cervical cancer screening and don’t hesitate to talk with your doctor.

“So often with reproductive gynecologic cancers, there’s some shame or stigma about talking about ‘oh I have an abnormal pap smear, oh I have potentially cervical pre-cancer’, but we need to be talking about these and raising awareness so that people feel empowered to go to their doctors and ask these questions and advocate for themselves,” Davidson said. 

Health experts say early protection works best. To learn more about the HPV vaccine and when to get it, click here