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Bringing Awareness of a Preventable Cancer in January

Health Op-ed by Hannah Farley

Hannah Farley. Photo provided.

It was not long ago that cervical cancer was a leading cause of cancer death for individuals with a cervix. Only in the past 40 years has the number of cases and deaths from this cancer significantly decreased in the United States.

January is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month, when we take time to recognize the great strides that have led to the decrease in cervical cancer across the nation.

What has changed since the 1970s that resulted in less people diagnosed with and dying from cervical cancer? Cancer screenings.

Pap tests (also known as Pap smears) are one type of cervical cancer screening. The test is a quick, easy and painless procedure. It’s recommended that anyone with a cervix ages 21 to 29 get a Pap smear every three years.

Another type of cervical cancer screening is the high-risk HPV test. This test is effective because more than 90% of cervical cancer cases are caused by HPV. This test is completed the same way as a Pap, and can be at the same time. It’s recommended those 30 years of age and older get a Pap smear every three years or a high-risk HPV test every five years. A co-test, which is a Pap smear and high-risk HPV test combined, can be done every five years instead.

If you have had a cervical cancer screening that shows something unusual, your doctor will contact you and figure out how best to follow-up.

Our health is so important, not only to ourselves, but to our family, friends and community. Let’s take care of ourselves this year by getting screened.

If you don’t have insurance or recently lost insurance and are concerned about paying for a cancer screening, the Cancer Services Program of the Finger Lakes Region (CSP-FLR) may be able to help. CSP-FLR pays for breast and cervical cancer screenings for eligible uninsured New York State residents ages 40 and older and colon cancer screenings for eligible uninsured individuals ages 50 and older. They may also pay for any follow-up services and diagnostic tests, if needed. This project is supported with funds from the State of New York and is available to all New York residents. You can reach them by calling 1-877-803-8070 or email at CSP@URMC.Rochester.edu.

Cervical cancer screenings have saved the lives of many, and they will continue to do so as long as we continue to get screened

Hannah Farley is the Promotion, Education and Targeted Outreach Manager of the Cancer Services Program of the Finger Lakes Region Center for Community Health & Prevention, UR Medicine. She can be reached at (315)401-1945 or Hannah-Farley@urmc.rochester.edu.