January is Cervical Health Awareness Month

Wednesday, January 04, 2006 | 6:00pm

Tennessee Department of Health Encourages Education and Screening

Nashville, January 5, 2006

If you’ve made a New Year’s resolution to live healthier, this is an opportunity to make it count. As part of Cervical Health Awareness Month during January, the Tennessee Department of Health is reminding women to get screened for cervical cancer or asked a loved one to get screened.

“If detected early, cervical cancer is almost 100 percent curable,” said Health Commissioner Kenneth S. Robinson, M.D. “Annual Pap tests are the simplest and most available way to detect cervical cancer. For many women who do not have access to routine health care, the State offers a Breast and Cervical Cancer Screening Program to ensure they can receive Pap tests.”

Pap tests, mammograms and breast exams are provided free of charge to eligible women through the Breast and Cervical Cancer Screening Program. Women must be 40 or older, uninsured or underinsured and meet financial eligibility guidelines. If an abnormal Pap test is reported, further services are available. In 2004, the state program screened almost 4,000 women, nearly four times more than in 2001.

One of the most common cancers, cervical cancer kills more than 5,000 of the 15,000 women diagnosed every year. About 330 cases are diagnosed in Tennessee annually, with one-third resulting in death.

Screening and early diagnosis are the best ways to ensure a cervical cancer diagnosis is not fatal. The American Cancer Society reports that 60 to 80 percent of American women newly diagnosed with cervical cancer had not had a Pap test in the past five years or have never had one. African-American women are disproportionately affected as they represent 27 percent of deaths from cervical cancer, but only 17 percent of Tennessee’s population.

The leading cause for developing cervical cancer is infection with the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), a sexually transmitted disease. Other risk factors include personal and/or family history of cervical cancer, smoking and increased age. To reduce their risk of cervical cancer, women should practice safe sexual behavior, eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables a day, report any unusual symptoms to their physician and have an annual Pap test.

Although an HPV vaccine for young women who are not sexually active is expected to be available in 2006, all women, especially those who have never had a Pap test or have not had one in 5 or more years, should get a Pap test every year. Treatment of the precancerous stages of cervical cancer can be lifesaving.

For more information call the Tennessee Breast and Cervical Cancer Screening Program at 1-877-96-WOMEN (1-877-969-6636) or log onto the website at www.tn.gov/health/ or contact the National Cancer Institute at 1-800-4-CANCER (1-800-422-6237).

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