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. 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 help prevent cervical cancer by finding the cells that lead to cancer. Those cells can then be removed before cancer starts. Screening tests can also find cancer early, when treatment may be most effective.
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 males and females 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 women between the ages of 21 to 65. Women aged 21-29 should be screened regularly with Pap tests every three years. Women 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 cancer early.
Free Pap and HPV tests are available through the Onondaga County Cancer Services Program (CSP) for women between the ages of 40 to 64 who do not have health insurance or experience other barriers to completing their screenings along with any necessary follow-up testing. Services are available at many healthcare provider sites throughout the city of Syracuse and Onondaga County. “Women without health insurance are less likely to get some preventive care services, like cancer screenings. Our program can help close the cervical screening gap for women without health insurance,” said Dr. Indu Gupta, Onondaga County Commissioner of Health.
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 a woman between the ages of 40 to 64 and do NOT have health insurance, call the Cancer Services Program at 315-435-3653 or visit our website to see if you qualify for free cervical cancer screening tests. Take care of yourself and schedule your test today!