The PA House of Representatives joined the rest of the nation in recognizing January 2011 as “Cervical Cancer Awareness Month” in an effort to increase awareness about the risks and treatability of cervical cancer.
Currently, cervical cancer is the second largest cancer killer of women worldwide. In the next year, 10,000 women will learn they have the cancer and 4,000 women will die from it.
The primary cause of cervical cancer is the human papillomavirus (HPV), which five million people acquire each year.
Gardsasil is a popular vaccine that helps to protect against four types of HPV. In young women 9-26, Gardasil is recommended to protect against 75% of cervical cancer cases and 90% of genital warts. In young men 9-26, Gardasil helps to protect against the cause of 90% of genital warts cases.
In addition to the Gardasil vaccine, cervical cancer deaths can be significantly reduced by widespread screening. Cervical cancer rates in the United States are affected by education, access to regular cervical cancer screening and the accuracy of screening. Minority women and women with lower incomes are less likely to have access to routine screening and therefore are disproportionately affected and at risk. About half of cervical cancer cases are in women who have never been tested and 10% of the cases are in women who haven’t been screened within the last five years.
Women between the ages of 40 and 64 who are uninsured may be eligible for a free screening for cervical cancer through the Pennsylvania Department of Health’s Healthy Woman Program. In 2008, 6,606 women were screened through the program and 207 women were found to have it. Women under the age of 64 who are uninsured and need treatment for cancer or precancerous condition of the cervix, may also be eligible for full health care benefits through the Breast and Cervical Cancer Prevention and Treatment Program of the Department of Public Welfare.
The importance of early access to accurate screening can make a world of difference for women with cervical cancer, highlighting the importance of community education.