Cervical Health Awareness month gives women and their partners a chance to educate themselves about the effects of cervical cancer on their lives. Cervical cancer is highly preventable because screening tests for cervical cancer and vaccines to prevent human papillomavirus (HPV) are available.
VACCINATE EARLY: To help prevent cervical cancer, vaccines are available to prevent HPV infection, the virus that is the main cause of cervical cancer. HPV vaccines offer the greatest health benefit to persons who receive all 3 doses before exposure to HPV through sexual activity.
Routine vaccination is recommended for girls and boys at age 11 or 12, but can be given to females through age 26 and males through age 21. Information about HPV vaccine is available at http://www.cdc.gov/hpv/vaccine.html, from your medical provider, or health department.
PAP TEST REGULARLY: For women aged 21-65 years, regular cervical cancer screening with the Pap test detects precancers, which are cell changes on the cervix that might becomes cancerous if they are not treated. Recently the three major organizations that issue guidelines have come together to suggest pap testing to begin for women at age 21, and negative results can wait three years to be screened again.
HPV TEST WHEN RECOMMENDED: Women over 30 with normal results should have a pap test and HPV test, and if both are normal, do not need re screening for five years. Since HPV is the main cause of cervical cancer, this test provides an excellent balance between detection of low cancer rates while avoiding the potential harms of unnecessary interventions.
When cervical cancer is found early, it is highly treatable and associated with long survival and good quality of life. Pap screenings are usually covered as a preventative procedure in health insurance plans. If you have no insurance coverage, are between the ages of 45-65, and are in need of a pelvic exam and pap test, you may qualify for the Wisconsin Well Woman Program to help pay for this procedure. Contact Charlotte at the Oneida County Health Department, 715-369-6118 to see if you qualify.