Cervical cancer used to be the leading cause of cancer death for women in the United States. However, in the past 40 years, the number of cases of cervical cancer and the number of deaths from cervical cancer have decreased significantly. This decline largely is the result of many women getting regular Pap tests, which can find cervical pre-cancer before it turns into cancer.
Cervical cancer occurs most often in women over the age of 30 and approximately 12,000 women in the U.S. get cervical cancer each year. Almost all cervical cancers are preventable and are caused by human papillomavirus, or HPV, a common virus that can be passed from person to person.
The most important thing women can do to help prevent cervical cancer is to get screened regularly, starting at age 21. Cervical cancer screenings, called Pap tests, can actually prevent cancer by finding abnormal cells before they become cancer.
“It is so important for women to get regular Pap tests because cervical cancer often does not have any symptoms until the late stages,” explains Breast and Cervical Cancer program director, Susan Twigg.
Pap tests are covered by most health insurance plans and if women are not insured, the Harford County Health Department’s Breast and Cervical Cancer Program can provide eligible women with no cost Pap tests for eligible women, ages 21-29 and Pap tests alone or with HPV testing for women age 30-64, which is a new benefit added this year.
“Even if women are insured, we can help women make appointments, find transportation, understand test results, arrange interpretation services or any follow-up tests,” says Ms. Twigg.
For more information about No-Cost Cervical Cancer Screening, call 410-942-7930. Other Screening tests available include mammogram, colonoscopy, and lung cancer screenings.