January is National Cervical Cancer Awareness Month, and the Onondaga County Cancer Services Program (CSP) is reminding people ages 21 and older who have a cervix to get screened for cervical cancer. Cervical cancer occurs most often in people over the age of 30. Unlike many cancers, cervical cancer can be prevented with the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination and regular screening tests (Pap test and HPV test) and follow-up. Screening tests can find the cells that lead to cancer. These cells can be removed before cancer starts. Screening tests can also find cancer early, when treatment may be most effective. Cervical cancer does not usually have symptoms in the beginning, which makes regular screening the key to finding it early.
Free Pap and HPV tests are available through the CSP for people ages 40 to 64 who have a cervix and have barriers, such as no health insurance, preventing them from getting the screenings and any necessary follow-up testing they may need. Services are available at many healthcare provider sites throughout the city of Syracuse and Onondaga County. “People without health insurance are less likely to get cancer screenings. Cervical cancer is most often found in those who rarely get screened or have never been screened. Our program can help people without health insurance get screened,” said Dr. Kathryn Anderson, Onondaga County Commissioner of Health.
The human papillomavirus (HPV) is the main cause of cervical cancer. HPV is a common virus that is passed from one person to another during sexual activity. Usually, HPV will go away on its own, but when it doesn’t, cervical cancer can develop over time. The HPV vaccine can prevent infection from the nine most common types of HPV. The vaccine is recommended for children at age 11 or 12, but can be given between 9 to 26 years of age. Adults between the ages of 27 to 45 who are not adequately vaccinated may benefit from the HPV vaccine. Check with your provider to determine if you should receive the vaccine. If you do not have insurance that covers the vaccine, please call (315) 435-2000 for more information on the Onondaga County Immunization Clinic.
There are two tests that can find cervical cancer early. Cervical cancer screening tests are recommended for people with a cervix between the ages of 21 to 65. People aged 21-29 should be screened regularly with Pap tests every three years. Those aged 30 and older may be screened with both Pap and HPV testing every five years. Routine screenings are an important step to help find cervical cancer early.
Whether you have health insurance or not, having cervical cancer screening tests is important. Do not delay your screening. Talk to your doctor, and if you are between the ages of 40 to 64 and do NOT have health insurance, call the Cancer Services Program at 315-435-3653 or visit the CSP website to see if you qualify for free cervical cancer screening tests. Take care of yourself and schedule your test today!