National Cancer Prevention Month is highlighted during the month of February, but preventing cancer is something that should become a part of daily lives because there are many effective prevention methods related to certain cancers.
Cervical cancer was once a leading cause of cancer related deaths for women in the United States, but due to screenings like the Pap test, cervical cancer mortality rates have declined by more than fifty percent in the last thirty years. Even with the availability of this impactful screening tool, 191 women were diagnosed with cervical cancer in 2014 and 82 women died from cervical cancer in 2015 in Arizona alone.
Cervical cancer is highly preventable when women receive regular screenings and receive appropriate follow-up care. The Pap test is recommended for all women between the ages of 21 and 65. Because cervical cancer is almost always caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV), it is important for women 30 years of age and older to also receive an HPV test along with the Pap test. The HPV test and Pap test are performed at the same time by a woman’s healthcare provider. If both test results are normal, a woman’s chance of getting cervical cancer is very low, and she can wait five years before her next screening.
Another important cancer prevention tool is the HPV vaccine. The vaccine is recommended for adolescent males and females starting at 11-12 years old, but can be given to children as young as nine and until the age of 26. The HPV vaccine protects against multiple kinds of cancer later in life, including head and neck cancer.
The Well Woman HealthCheck Program here at ADHS offers breast and cervical cancer screening and diagnostic tests for low-income, uninsured and underinsured women in clinics across the state. To see if you or someone you know might qualify for the program, visit the program’s eligibility page.