Cervical health awareness necessary at any age

Published Jan 28, 2018 at 9:00am

Have you been screened recently for cervical cancer?

In many cases, cervical cancer screenings are recommended up to at least age 65. HPV (human papillomavirus) is a very common infection that spreads through sexual activity. It is also a major cause of cervical cancer. About 79 million Americans currently have HPV, but many people with HPV do not know they are infected. The HPV vaccine is cancer prevention.

The HPV vaccine (shot) can prevent HPV. The HPV vaccine is a series of 2-3 shots over 6 months, and approved for girls and boys 9-26 years old. The vaccine is a series of two shots for girls and boys ages 9-14. A three-shot series is recommended for girls and boys ages 15-26.

Cervical cancer can often be prevented with regular screening tests (called Pap tests) and follow up care.

Women to start getting regular Pap tests at age 21.

Speak with your child’s health care provider about the HPV vaccine.  Thanks to cervical screening and the HPV vaccine, the cervical cancer death rate has been reduced by 50 percent. Cervical cancer screenings, or pap smears, can detect changes in the cervix before cancer develops, and catch cervical cancer early on. 

Women ages 21 to 65 should get regular pap tests. If you are not currently sexually active, it is still important to have a pap test. Women who have gone through menopause (when a woman’s periods stop), and are younger than 65 still need regular Pap tests.

The only women who do not need regular Pap tests are:

Women ages 65 and older who have had three normal Pap tests in a row and no abnormal test results in the last 10 years, and have been told by their doctors that they don’t need to be tested anymore.

Women who do not have a cervix (usually because of a hysterectomy) and who do not have a history of cervical cancer or abnormal Pap results.

All women should speak to a doctor before stopping regular Pap tests. For additional questions related to the HPV vaccine, please contact your primary care doctor, or the Oneida County Health Department clinic at 315-798-5747.

If you do not have health insurance to pay for cervical screening (pap smear), the Oneida County Health Department’s Cancer Services Program of Oneida, Herkimer and Madison Counties (CSP) may be able to help. The CSP can pay for breast and cervical screening for uninsured women ages 40 to 64, and colon screening for uninsured men and women ages 50 to 64.

For people with insurance but who have a high deductible, the CSP may be able to help pay for follow-up services if that deductible has not been met and you are going to have to pay out of pocket. Call 315-798-5248 or go to ohmcancerservices.org.