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. Approximately 12,000 U.S. women get cervical cancer each year. Cervical cancer is easily prevented with regular screening tests and follow-up and is highly curable when found and treated early.
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 sex. It is important to remember that most sexually active people will have HPV at some point in their lives. 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 through 26 years of age. Recently, the FDA expanded the approved age for this vaccine to men and women up to age 45. 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 21-30 should be screened regularly with Pap tests. Women aged 30 and older may also be screened with Pap and HPV testing. A women’s doctor will indicated how often to have these tests completed based on past test results. Routine screenings are an important step to help find cervical 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. Services are available at many healthcare provider sites throughout the city of Syracuse and Onondaga County. Call 315-435-3653 or visit the CSP website at ongov.net/health/cancerscreening.html to register for your free screening test.
Whether you have health insurance or not, having cervical cancer screening tests may save your life. You should start regular Pap Tests at age 21 and continue this practice through age 65 with guidance of your doctor. Remember, if you are a woman between the ages of 40 to 64 and do NOT have health insurance, call 315-435-3653 to see if you qualify for free cervical cancer screening tests. Take care of yourself and schedule your test today!