LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - We faithfully wear pink to support breast cancer awareness, but this month is dedicated to a cancer that often goes unmentioned.
"Cervical cancer definitely isn't discussed," said Cristina Graves, a medical doctor of Lufkin.
Though rarely discussed, the rates of women diagnosed with and dying from cervical cancer in Texas is among the highest.
"They don't realize the severity. They don't realize the prevalence," Graves said.
It is especially prevalent in East Texas. Forty died from the cancer in 2011, and the region has the highest number of incidents. Graves said there is a particular reason why cervical cancer doesn't make the headlines.
"The vast majority are caused by HPV," Graves said.
Human Papilloma Virus is a sexually transmitted disease linked to cervical cancer. Other viruses and factors may cause the cancer, but according to the American Cancer Society, HPV causes 70% of the cases. Graves says that people who have the cancer are usually not excited to talk about it.
"People don't want to talk about that. It's awkward and uncomfortable," Graves said.
The American Cancer Society says that if treated at its early stages, cervical cancer is one of the most successfully treated.
"We recommend starting the vaccine at age 11 on girls and boys," Graves said.
She adds that most people are unaware that the shot is available to males as well. Though they are unable to develop cervical cancer, they are able to carry and spread the STD that causes it.
The vaccine prevents two types of HPV that lead to cervical cancer. Controversy once surrounded the vaccine because it's given at such a young age, but graves says, "The prevalence of HPV is so high that even if your child makes every perfect decision they could still be at risk."
She says though cervical cancer is rarely discussed, women and men should be aware that it exists.
"That is better than the long term chances of cervical cancer," Graves said.
Women are encouraged to be screened for cervical cancer at the age of 21, and the cut-off age for the vaccine is 26.