January is Cervical Health Awareness Month — a good time to check in with your healthcare provider to schedule a cervical cancer screening. Anyone with a cervix can get cervical cancer, and prevention through early detection is key. Every day, 35 women across the United States are diagnosed with invasive cervical cancer, and many hundreds more are diagnosed with precursors that could lead to it. While cervical cancer is often caused by one of the country’s most common sexually transmitted infections — the human papilloma virus (HPV) — it is also one of the most preventable forms of cancer.
Throughout Cervical Health Awareness Month, Planned Parenthood hopes to remove stigma around sexual and reproductive care with its “This Is Health Care” awareness campaign, reinforcing the fact that cancer screenings and other kinds of sexual and reproductive care are standard medical services and should not be politicized.
Of the more than 13,000 women in the United States annually diagnosed with cervical cancer, more than half have either never been screened or have not been screened in the past five years. Cervical cancer is caused by certain types of HPV, an STI roughly 79 million Americans have. HPV is harmless in most cases, but high-risk HPV sometimes leads to cervical cancer. Thankfully, as many as 93 percent of cervical cancers could be prevented by screening and HPV vaccination, services that Planned Parenthood proudly provides.
Still, 4,210 women die of cervical cancer each year, including a disproportionately high number of women of color, who already bear the brunt of health disparities. Black and Hispanic women, for example, are more likely to be diagnosed at a later stage, when their cervical cancer is much more difficult to treat. As a result, Latinas experience a 40 percent higher rate of cervical cancer than non-Hispanic white women, and black women die from cervical cancer at a rate of 41 percent higher than white women.
Statement from Anne Udall, President & CEO, Planned Parenthood Columbia Willamette:
“Routine Pap and HPV screenings, like the ones we provide at Planned Parenthood Columbia Willamette every day, save the lives of thousands of women in the United States and around the world. The HPV vaccination is also a critical step in prevention, protecting against the two types of HPV that cause 70 percent of all cervical cancers.
“These are easy, non-invasive, preventive measures that can save your life — if you have access to them. Unfortunately, not all women do. Women of color often bear the brunt of health disparities. A lack of adequate insurance coverage leads to late-stage diagnosis for women of color and higher death rates from cervical cancer. Every person who has a cervix could be at risk for cervical cancer, and no one should have to die from this preventable and treatable disease.”
Standard, lifesaving care like cervical cancer screenings and HPV vaccinations are now under further attack as the Trump-Pence administration is finalizing a rule that would make it impossible for Planned Parenthood and other health centers across the nation to continue participating in Title X, the national program for affordable birth control and reproductive care. Planned Parenthood health centers serve 41 percent of the 4 million patients who get care through this program — that’s more than 1.6 million patients whose health care is at risk. When people can’t see their provider of choice, they delay or simply go without care.
Planned Parenthood Columbia Willamette health centers offer cancer screenings at all of our 7 health centers, and in 2017 alone, we provided nearly 5,500 Pap tests and 114 HPV vaccines.
Planned Parenthood’s current guidelines for cervical cancer screenings are:
• Initial Pap test at age 21;
• Pap test every 3 years at ages 21-29;
• Pap or HPV test every 3 years, or both Pap and HPV tests every 5 years at ages 30-64; and
• More frequent screenings or screenings past age 65 for certain people with higher risk, as determined by their doctor or nurse.
To find out more or to schedule a screening, contact Planned Parenthood Columbia Willamette at PPCW.org.