Health experts: Cervical cancer preventable

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (WANE)  The Indiana State Department of Health is encouraging women to undergo cervical cancer screenings.

An estimated 12,170 women were diagnosed with invasive cervical cancer in 2012 and over 4,200 deaths occurred as a result of cervical cancer, according to the American Cancer Society. In Indiana, approximately 250 new cases of cervical cancer and 85 cervical cancer-related deaths occur annually.

“No woman should die from cervical cancer,” said State Health Commissioner William VanNess, M.D. “By taking some precautions like having routine Pap screenings, getting the HPV vaccine, and avoiding tobacco products, cervical cancer is almost 100 percent preventable.”

There are two screening tests than can help prevent cervical cancer or find it at an early stage, when treatment is most successful. The Pap test looks for cell changes on the cervix that might become cancerous if they aren’t treated appropriately. The HPV test looks for the virus that can cause these cell changes.

The United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends screening for cervical cancer in women ages 21 to 65 years with a Pap test every three years; or, for women ages 30 to 65 who want to lengthen the screening interval, screening with a combination of a Pap test and an HPV test every five years.

The greatest risk factor for cervical cancer is exposure to human papillomavirus (HPV). The virus is spread through sexual contact. Two high-risk HPV strains (HPV 16 and HPV 18) account for more than 70 percent of all cervical cancer cases, according to the National Cancer Institute.

Another high risk factor for cervical cancer is smoking. Women who smoke are about twice as likely as non-smokers to get cervical cancer.

The Indiana Breast and Cervical Cancer Program provides access to breast and cervical cancer screenings, diagnostic testing, and treatment for underserved and underinsured women who qualify for services. To find out if you qualify for this program, call the Indiana Family Helpline at 1-855-HELP-1ST (1-855-435-7178).

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