January is cervical health awareness month

January is cervical health awareness month
By Meredith Gardner meredith.gardner@theindependent.com

Cervical cancer is a highly preventable and curable disease,
according to the Centers for Disease Control. And that’s one of the
reasons why it’s important for women to pay attention to and maintain
their reproductive health, said Dr. Joann Schaefer, the state’s chief
medical officer. “It’s important for women to see their healthcare
provider,” especially to maintain overall health, Schaefer said.
January is cervical health awareness month, a time for women to
become educated about cervical cancer screenings and the programs
available to provide them. The cervix is the lower, narrower part of
the uterus. Any woman who has a cervix that has not been completely
removed can develop cervical cancer, although it’s more likely to
develop in women age 40 or older, according to the CDC. Since use of
the Pap test became widespread starting in the 1970s, the incidence
of cervical cancer has dropped significantly, both in Nebraska and
nationwide, Schaefer said. During a Pap test, also known as a Pap
smear, a medical professional collects cells from the cervix. Those
cells are studied in a lab for signs of cancerous or pre-cancerous
abnormalities. However, some women cannot afford to go to the doctor
for regular screenings, which raises their risk of developing
cervical cancer unnoticed. About 50 percent of the women who develop
cervical cancer in the U.S. have never had a Pap test, according to
the CDC. “The thing why it’s so important to go in and get those Paps
is cervical cancer doesn’t always cause symptoms, especially right at
first,” said Kelsey O’Donnell, community heath nurse at the Central
District Health Department. The CDC recommends women begin undergoing
Pap test screenings within three years of first sexual intercourse or
by age 21. Pap tests should be completed every year for three years
in a row. After three years of normal results, women can have a Pap
test every two to three years. The Nebraska Department of Health and
Human Services offers the Every Woman Matters program to women ages
40 and older, which provides screenings to those who do not have
adequate insurance and meet certain income guidelines. Since 1991, 60
cases of invasive cervical cancer have been diagnosed through Every
Woman Matters. In addition to Pap tests, women and girls ages 9 to 26
can receive the genital human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine Gardasil,
which is recommended by the CDC. HPV is the most commonly sexually
transmitted infection in the U.S., according to the CDC. While the
majority of HPV infections cause no symptoms and go away on their
own, HPV can cause cervical cancer. Gardasil protects against four
types of HPV, which together cause 70 percent of cervical cancers and
90 percent of genital warts, according to the CDC. The vaccine is
administered in a three-dose series during a period of six months. In
Grand Island, the Central District Health Department administers
Gardasil free of charge to children ages 9 to 18 who are covered
under the Vaccines for Children federal health program. To qualify,
girls must be uninsured, Medicaid-eligible, American Indian or Alaska
Native. The vaccine is available for women up to age 26 at private
medical clinics as well. The retail price of each dose is $120, or
$360 for the entire series. Prices may vary among medical practices,
however. Not all insurance companies cover the vaccine. Those who
receive the Gardasil vaccine still need to receive regular Pap tests.
Even so, it’s important for women and parents of young girls to
consider the vaccine, Schaefer said. “I think it’s something every
woman should discuss with (her) healthcare provider,” Schaefer said.

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January 21, 2008. Tags: , , . Uncategorized.

3 Comments

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  3. Cervical Cancer » Blog Archive » Women Should Check their Vitals To Prevent Cervical Cancer ... replied:

    […] January is cervical health awareness monthCervical cancer is a highly preventable and curable disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control. And that’s one of the reasons why it’s important for women to pay attention to and maintain their reproductive health, said Dr. … […]

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