January is National Cervical Cancer Awareness Month. All women are at risk for cervical cancer but it occurs most often in women over the age of 30. Approximately 12,000 U.S. women will develop cervical cancer each year. The best prevention for cervical cancer is the HPV vaccine and regular screening tests (Pap test and HPV test) with appropriate follow up.
The human papillomaviruses (HPV) are the main cause of cervical cancer. HPV is a common virus that is passed from one person to another during sexual contact. The current HPV vaccine can protect against up to 9 strains of cancer-causing HPV viruses. It is important to remember that most sexually active people will have HPV at some point in their lives, with the possibility of developing cervical cancer over time.
There are two tests that can either help prevent cervical cancer or find it early. The Pap test is recommended for women starting at age 21, and with normal results another test may not be needed for three years. For women between the ages of 30 to 65, they can be screened with a Pap test and an HPV test. If both tests are normal, you may be able to wait five years until your next screening. Routine screenings are an important step to help find cervical cancer early and are offered at no cost for eligible women.
Free cervical cancer screening tests are available through the Onondaga County Cancer Services Program (CSP) for women between 40 to 64 years old who do not have health insurance or experience other barriers to completing their screening tests. Services are available at many healthcare provider sites throughout the city of Syracuse and Onondaga County. Call 315-435-3653 or visit the CSP website at ongov.net/health/cancerscreening.html to register for your free screening test.
Screening tests may find cervical cancer early and save your life. Remember, if you are a woman between 40 to 64 years old and do NOT have health insurance, call 315-435-3653 to see if you qualify for free cervical cancer screening tests. Take care of yourself and schedule your appointment today!