Another year has gone by in a flash. During this past year, while you were busy with work, volunteering or taking care of family and friends, did you remember to take time out for your cervical health? If not, January is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month, and it is the perfect time for women to make a resolution to get screened for cervical cancer.
Even though cervical cancer is one of the most preventable cancers, the American Cancer Society estimates that 13,170 women will be diagnosed with it in the U.S. in 2019 and 4,250 women will die from it. Cervical cancer most often results from exposure to the human papillomavirus, a sexually transmitted infection. A screening known as a Pap test can find changes in the cervix before cancer develops.
A few simple steps can help women take care of their cervical health:
• Quit smoking. Women who smoke are nearly twice as likely to get cervical cancer as those who don’t. You can call the Illinois Tobacco QUITLINE at 1-866-QUIT-YES for help.
• Get a Pap test. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says women should start getting a Pap test at age 21 and continue through age 65 with a history of normal Pap test results. If your screening results are normal, you may not need another test for three years. Women older than 30 may choose to have an HPV test alone or an HPV test with their Pap test (co-test).
• Getting the HPV vaccine helps protect against the two types of HPV that are known to cause cervical cancer.
• The McHenry County Department of Health wants all women to complete their cervical cancer screenings. The Illinois Breast and Cervical Cancer Program is there to help women without health insurance. Funded through the Illinois Department of Public Health, IBCCP provides free screenings to detect breast and cervical cancer for underserved women in McHenry County. Services are free to eligible women at participating providers within the county and can include office visits for breast and/or pelvic exams, Pap tests and HPV tests, screening mammograms and diagnostic workups for abnormal screening results.
The program also may be able to help women with Medicaid or other insurance whose plan are accepted by IBCCP providers. For information about IBCCP or to find out if you qualify, call MCDH at 815-334-0232, the Illinois Women’s Health-Line at 888-522-1282 or visit www.mcdh.info.
• Jennifer Northern is the coordinator for the Illinois Breast and Cervical Cancer program. She can be reached at 815-334-0232.