Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota Urges Women to Make Cervical Health a Priority

Marking January’s Cervical Health Awareness Month, Experts Note that Cervical Cancer is Preventable — which Starts with Regular Screening


Jen Aulwes


Published: | Updated: 01.07.13

Noting that cervical cancer is preventable and that proper screening is key to early detection, Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota (PPMNS) is calling on women to resolve to protect their cervical health during January’s Cervical Health Awareness Month.

PPMNS, the area’s leading women’s health care provider and advocate, provided 10,500 Pap tests in 2012. Regular Pap tests are one of the most effective ways to detect cervical cancer early. The human papillomavirus, or HPV, can lead to cervical cancer. PPMNS provided 3,000 HPV tests and more than 2,000 HPV vaccinations in 2012.

Every year, approximately 12,000 women in the U.S. are diagnosed with cervical cancer, and about 4,000 American women die of the disease. Minnesota’s rates of cervical cancer and cervical cancer mortality are lower than national rates in large part due to the state’s effective screening programs, but women here are still affected. “Despite our best efforts, 165 women in Minnesota are diagnosed with invasive cervical cancer each year and around 45 women die. This is a terrible shame given this disease is almost entirely preventable,” said Sarah Stoesz, President and CEO of PPMNS. If detected early, the five-year survival rate for cervical cancer is almost 100 percent.

“The good news is that routine screening and vaccination against HPV can protect women against cervical cancer,” continued Stoesz. “That’s why it’s important for women to know when and how often to take these important protective measures. The guidelines for screening have changed, and most women need it less frequently, but they should still make routine screening a priority, and continue visits with their provider for other, more frequent reproductive health screenings and family planning services.” 

In 2012 several health advisory groups and medical professional organizations reviewed years of data and updated their recommendations on how often women should be screened for cervical cancer. PPMNS’s updated guidelines reflect those recommendations and call for Pap screening to begin at age 21, and for most women to be screened every three years up to age 29. For women aged 30 to 64, most should have routine screenings performed every three years using Pap testing or every five years using combined Pap and HPV testing.

PPMNS notes that screening for cervical cancer is essential during most of a woman’s adult life, even if she is not currently engaging in sexual activity or if her partner is a woman. Women should go to a health care provider to get regular Pap tests, even if they are not seeing a provider for prescription contraception.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends HPV vaccination for girls aged 11 and 12 and for boys and men between ages 9 and 26. In order to be most effective, HPV vaccination should occur prior to the start of sexual intimacy.

As a part of the effort to raise awareness and prevent cervical cancer, Planned Parenthood is offering resources that can help women take charge of their cervical health. They include a report on preventing cervical cancer in Minnesota, and an updated webpage that includes videos with Planned Parenthood health care providers on how to protect yourself from cervical cancer, book reviews and links to the latest cervical cancer research.


For more than 80 years, Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota has worked in our region to make sure all people have the information and the means to make free and responsible decisions about whether and when to have children.  Planned Parenthood operates 20 clinics in Minnesota and South Dakota and an Online Health Center, providing quality and affordable family planning, reproductive health care services and education to nearly 64,000  women and men each year.

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