Cervical cancer is caused by one of the most common STIs, but is a highly preventable form of cancer
(New Haven, Conn.)—January is Cervical Health Awareness Month—a good time to check in with your health care provider to schedule a cervical cancer screening or a preventive exam. Anyone with a cervix can get cervical cancer, and prevention through early detection is key. Every day, 35 people across the U.S. are diagnosed with invasive cervical cancer, and many hundreds more are diagnosed with precursors that could lead to its development. While cervical cancer is often caused by one of the country’s most common sexually transmitted infections—the human papillomavirus (HPV)—it is also one of the most preventable forms of cancer.
Each year, more than 13,000 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with cervical cancer and 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, a common STI. Roughly 79 million Americans have HPV — and approximately 14 million are newly infected each year. In most cases, HPV is harmless, but certain strains of HPV can lead to cervical cancer. Thankfully, as many as 93 percent of cervical cancers could be prevented by screening and HPV vaccination, services that Planned Parenthood of Southern New England proudly provides.
Still, an estimated 4,250 people die of cervical cancer each year, including a disproportionately high number of people of color. Due to systemic barriers in our health care system, Black and Latinx patients are more likely to be diagnosed at a later stage when cervical cancer is much more difficult to treat. As a result, Latinx patients experience a 40 percent higher rate of cervical cancer than non-Hispanic white patients, and Black patients with cervical cancer die at a rate of 41 percent higher than those who are white.
“Routine Pap and HPV screenings, like the ones we provide at Planned Parenthood of Southern New England every day, save the lives of thousands of people in the United States and around the world,” said Nicole Phillips, Director of Primary Care Services at PPSNE. “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. This January, we encourage anyone with a cervix to talk to their health care provider about the risks of cervical cancer and schedule a screening—and young adults who haven’t received the HPV vaccine should consider getting vaccinated.”
Although cervical cancer is highly preventable, the Trump-Pence administration continues to make standard, life-saving care—like cervical cancer screenings and HPV vaccinations—harder for people to access. The Trump-Pence administration’s “abortion gag rule” forced Planned Parenthood out of Title X, the nation’s only program for affordable birth control and family planning services, in a direct attack to reproductive health care providers and patients with low incomes who rely on Title X for preventive care. In Connecticut and Rhode Island, Planned Parenthood of Southern New England served more than 42,500 Title X patients annually.
“Regular Pap tests and the HPV vaccines can help prevent cervical cancer. These are easy, non-invasive preventive measures that can save your life—if you have access to them,” said Nicole Phillips. “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.”
Planned Parenthood of Southern New England offers cancer screenings and the HPV vaccine at all 17 health centers in Connecticut and Rhode Island. Last year, PPSNE provided nearly 17,000 cancer screenings and preventive services.
Planned Parenthood’s current guidelines for cervical cancer screenings are:
- Initial Pap test at age 21;
- Pap test every three years at ages 21–29;
- Pap or HPV test every three years, or both Pap and HPV tests every five 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 at your nearest Planned Parenthood of Southern New England health center, visit ppsne.org or call 1-800-230-7526 (PLAN).