Published: 01.13.11| Updated: 01.13.11
DENVER- In recognition of Cervical Cancer Awareness Month in January, Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains is encouraging women to visit their health care providers to receive basic, preventative cervical cancer screenings and treatments to help save their lives.
In the Making the Grade on Women’s Health: A National and State-by-State Report Card, produced by the National Women’s Law Center, Colorado was given a failing grade when it came to the percentage of the state’s female population over the age of 18 that had take the steps to prevent cervical cancer, and had a Pap test in the last three years, ranking 25th nationally.
Even though cervical cancer is the second most common form of cancer in women worldwide, too many women are not taking advantage of the primary screening tool to help identify and prevent it, which, if caught early is highly treatable and has a long life expectancy after diagnosis.
Nationally, six out of ten cases of cervical cancer appear in women who have never been screened or haven’t had a Pap test in the past five years.
“Planned Parenthood sees firsthand at our health centers that regular checkups and preventative care are the keys to maintaining a healthy reproductive system,” said Amy Dickson, vice president of clinical operation for PPRM. “We recommend initial Pap screening to begin at age 21 or three years after becoming sexually active.”
PPRM health centers offer preventative reproductive health care, including routine cervical cancer screenings, annual wellness exams and the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine called Gardasil, which protects against the types of HPV that most often cause cervical, vaginal and vulvar cancers. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that girls and young women between the ages of 9 to 26 take advantage of the three-shot series of the HPV vaccine, in addition to routine Pap tests, to protect themselves.
HPV is spread through sexual intercourse or sexual contact and is the most common sexually transmitted infection. The CDC estimates that approximately 20 million Americans are currently infected with HPV, and another six million people become newly infected each year. But through vaccination and routine cervical cancer screenings, cervical cancer can be prevented. Practicing safer sex or abstaining from sex can also reduce one’s risk of developing HPV.
With many other cancers, there are risk factors that may preclude some women from being concerned about being diagnosed, but with cervical cancer, all women are at risk. In 2006, the most recent year data is available, 11,982 women in the U.S. were diagnosed with cervical cancer, and 3,976 women died from the disease.
January is a time to remind yourself, or the women in your life, that like any health issue, cervical cancer is easier to treat when diagnosed early, but prevention altogether is best.
Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains empowers individuals and families in the communities we serve to make informed choices about their sexual and reproductive health by providing high quality health services, comprehensive sex education, and strategic advocacy. More than 123,000 women, men, and young adults annually visit our 28 health centers throughout Colorado, New Mexico, Southern Nevada, and Wyoming. Since 1916, we have been the region’s most trusted provider of reproductive health care. For more information about Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, call 1.800.230.PLAN or visit pprm.org for the health center nearest you.