January Is Cervical Health Awareness Month
January is Cervical Health Awareness Month and the Chautauqua County Cancer Services Program is reminding county residents there are two ways to prevent cervical cancer — screening and HPV vaccination — and that free screenings are available to uninsured women.
“Our program can help close the screening gap for women without insurance,” said Christine Schuyler, county Health and Human Services director. “According to the most recent New York state data (2014), only about 65 percent of women without insurance have had a Pap test within the past three years, compared to roughly 85 percent of women with health insurance.”
Early on, cervical cancer does not usually have symptoms so being screened with a Pap test, or a combination of a Pap test and high-risk human papilloma virus (HR HPV) test, is the key to prevention and survival. Screening tests help find the cells that lead to cancer. Those cells can then be removed before cancer starts. Screening can also find cancer early, when treatment may be most effective. The Cancer Services Program offers the tests to uninsured women, ages 40 and older.
“Cervical cancer is most often found in women who have never had a Pap test or who have not had one in the past five years, so it’s especially important for these women to get screened,” Schuyler said. “We encourage women not to delay their screening, and to talk to their doctor or call the Cancer Services Program.”
Another way to prevent cervical cancer is by being vaccinated against the human papilloma virus (HPV). Research has shown that most cervical cancers are caused by HPV. The HPV vaccine is recommended for boys and girls between the ages of 9 and 14 and young adults through age 26. Ask your health care provider for more details.
Some women are at higher risk for cervical cancer. Women who smoke are about twice as likely to get cervical cancer compared to non-smokers, and cervical cancer is more often found in women over the age of 30. For more information about risk factors for cervical cancer, visit www.health.ny.gov/diseases/cancer/cervical/.
In addition to cervical cancer screening, the Cancer Services Program also provides free breast and colorectal cancer screening to eligible New York state residents. For more information about free screenings in Chautauqua County, call the Cancer Services Program at 800-506-9185 or find the program’s Facebook page.