Health professionals urge residents to help prevent cervical cancer

By Taylor Fussman
Pioneer News Network

MECOSTA, OSCEOLA COUNTIES — In recognition of January as National Cervical Cancer Awareness Month, health professionals are encouraging people to help prevent cervical cancer through vaccination and screening tests.

According to a press release from Central Michigan District Health Department (CMDHD), cervical cancer is one of the most preventable cancers affecting women.

Cervical cancer is one of the most preventable cancers affecting women, but there are still thousands of cases throughout the country each year. In recognition of January as National Cervical Cancer Awareness Month, health professionals are encouraging people to help prevent it through vaccination and screening tests. (Courtesy photo)

However, data from the American Cancer Society reports in 2018 an estimated 13,240 new cases of cervical cancer were diagnosed with an estimated 4,170 deaths from the disease. In Michigan in 2018, there were 370 new diagnoses with an estimated 110 deaths from cervical cancer.

Cervical cancer usually develops slowly, beginning as simple abnormal cells, but if left untreated, these cells can progress into cancer.

CMDHD states about two out of every three cervical cancers are caused by certain strains of the human papillomavirus (HPV), the most common sexually transmitted infection in the U.S.

However, there are currently two HPV vaccines which have been shown to prevent the types of HPV that lead to cervical cancer — Cervarix and Gardasil, available for both boys and girls between the ages of 9 and 26.

Dr. Jennifer Morse, medical director for District No. 10 Health Department, said it is important for teens to get the vaccination early, around 11 to 12 years of age.

“We want to get the vaccination into people before they are exposed to the virus,” Morse said. “We also want to give them a chance to build up an immunity before they are exposed.”

Although women are at risk for cervical cancer, the vaccine is recommended for males also because they can carry the virus and infect women.

Morse explained in addition to being vaccinated, people can be proactive in preventing and detecting cervical cancer by having a Pap test performed.

This is a specific screening test for cervical cancer which can detect abnormal cervical cells. If these cells are found, treatment can usually be done to remove these cells and prevent them from becoming cancerous.

“Cervical cancer is preventable if you get your regular exam because it can be detected in the early stages,” Morse said.

She noted if cervical cancer reaches the late stages before it is detected, it can oftentimes result in a poor outcome, and it is therefore vital to screen for the abnormal cells properly.

CMDHD recommends all women who have reached the age of 21 to have regular interval cervical cancer screenings.

Women can have a cervical cancer screening performed by CMDHD through the Family Planning and Breast and Cervical Cancer Control Navigation Programs.

Through this program, the organization provides free Pap tests and breast cancer screenings with mammograms to women aged 40 to 64 with limited income and little to no health insurance.

For more information on cancer screening services offered at CMDHD, contact the main office at (989) 773-5921, or a local branch office.

To learn more about detecting, preventing and treating cervical cancer, visit cancer.org/cancer/cervical-cancer.html.

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