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Screening and early detection of cervical cancer can save lives

(Providence, RI)—January 2022 is Cervical Health Awareness Month. Planned Parenthood of Southern New England (PPSNE) — a proud provider of cervical cancer screenings and supporter of the Rhode Island Women’s Cancer Screening program, which provides free breast and cervical cancer screenings to those who qualify— is urging all individuals with a cervix to schedule a screening today.

According to the American Society for Cancer Research, a disproportionate number of people who are diagnosed and die from cervical cancer are the same communities who face tremendous barriers to receiving preventative care: people of color, trans men, people with low incomes, and people without access to health insurance. The Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) has created a cervical cancer screening program targeted at lessening the disparity in diagnosis and reducing barriers to preventative care.

While cervical cancer can cause serious health issues and death if untreated, it is also one of the most preventable forms of cancer. As many as 93% of cervical cancers could be prevented by screening and HPV vaccination, both services that Planned Parenthood of Southern New England routinely provides.

Kristina Lambert, a Family Nurse Practitioner and Clinician at PPSNE’s Providence health center comments:

"A cervical cancer screening — or a 'pap test’ — is a quick and painless way to ensure you live a longer and healthier life. Anyone with a cervix can develop cervical cancer. That is why regular screenings are essential for staying healthy.

“If an individual is unsure if they've had a cervical cancer screening or they haven't had a screening in the past few years they can call us to schedule. We're here to help. If cost or insurance is an issue, we can assist with enrolling them into Rhode Island's free screening program.

“Our doors are open to everyone. No one should have to die from this preventable and treatable disease."

The Women’s Cancer Screening Program from the Rhode Island Department of Health works to reduce the number of cases and deaths due to breast and cervical cancer, among women with limited access to healthcare.” People with a cervix aged 21-64 who qualify for the program can receive free reproductive cancer screenings, including a pap test which detects cervical cancer.

Eligibility for the program is as follows:

  • Health Insurance status, uninsured - having no health insurance; OR underinsured - having health insurance but the co-pay, deductible or out of pocket expense associated with the breast/cervical screening/follow-up care is unaffordable and has created a barrier to care
  • Income level - less than 250% of Federal Poverty Level
  • Residency - must be a Rhode Island resident (immigration status is not relevant)

The Women's Cancer Screening program offers additional support through Medical Assistance (Medicaid) to cover the cost of treatment for a diagnosis of breast or cervical cancer. People interested in the program can find more information on the Women’s Cancer Screening program website.

Planned Parenthood of Southern New England’s health center in Providence provides care to more than 10,000 people each year, many of them under or uninsured. PPSNE’s Providence health center annually provides more than 800 pap tests and more than 300 tests for HPV. PPSNE’s Providence center provides a full range of reproductive health care, including cervical cancer screening, colposcopy, and LEEP services to diagnose and treat abnormal cervical conditions.  

To learn more about preventative cancer screenings, individuals can visit ppsne.org or make an appointment online or by calling 1-800-230-PLAN (7526).