LANSING – January is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services is urging testing and vaccination to help prevent this disease that will affect approximately 370 Michigan women this year alone.
The Pap test is a simple and affordable screening test to detect cervical cancer in women, yet most cervical cancer deaths occur in women who have either never had a Pap test or have not been screened in more than five years. Women should begin regular screening for cervical cancer at age 21.
Women’s preventive health care – such as screenings for cervical cancer, prenatal care, mammograms, immunizations and other services – is covered through the Healthy Michigan Plan without copays. Pap tests are also available at Family Planning Clinics, and for women ages 21 to 64, Pap testing is accessible through the Breast and Cervical Cancer Control and Navigation Program. For more information about BCCCNP, go online to michigancancer.org/bcccnp.
The Human Papillomavirus vaccine protects against the types of HPV most associated with many cancers, including cervical cancer. The vaccine is safe and is most effective when given at the recommended ages of 11 to 12 years. However, it can be started as early as age 9 and given through age 26. For best protection, everyone should receive all recommended doses of the HPV vaccination.
Vaccines for Children, Medicaid, MI-Child and most health insurances pay for the HPV vaccine. If your child does not have health insurance, or does not have insurance that covers these vaccines, patients should ask health care providers or local health departments about the VFC program. VFC provides vaccines at no or low cost to eligible children, 18 years of age and younger.
In addition to HPV, other factors can increase one’s risk of cervical cancer:
Having HIV or another condition that impairs a body’s immune system.
Using birth control pills for a 5+ years.
Having given birth to three or more children.
For more information, visit CDC.gov/cancer/gynecologic.