Cervical Cancer Can Be Prevented

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January is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month

New York, NY (January 4, 2011) – The American Cancer Society recognizes January as Cervical Cancer Awareness Month, a time to talk about how cervical cancer can be prevented or detected early, when treatment can be most successful. 

Cancer of the cervix may be prevented or detected early by regular Pap tests. If it is detected early, cervical cancer is one of the most successfully treatable cancers. In the United States, the cervical cancer death rate declined by almost 70% between 1955 and 1992, in large part due to the effectiveness of Pap smear screening. The death rate continues to decline each year. In New York, it is estimated that 930 women will be diagnosed with cervical cancer this year. In New Jersey, it is estimated that 420 women will be diagnosed with cervical cancer this year.

Since the most common form of cervical cancer starts with pre-cancerous changes, there are two ways to stop this disease from developing. One way is to find and treat pre-cancers before they become true cancers, and the other is to prevent the pre-cancers in the first place.

The most important risk factor for cervical cancer is infection by the human papilloma virus (HPV). HPV is a group of more than 100 related viruses that can infect cells on the surface of the skin, genitals, anus, mouth and throat. There are two vaccines available to help prevent certain types of HPV and some of the cancers linked to those types: Gardasil® and Cervarix®. These vaccines prevent the 2 types of HPV (HPV 16 and 18) that cause 70% of all cervical cancers.

Women who smoke are about twice as likely as non-smokers to get cervical cancer. Smoking exposes the body to many cancer-causing chemicals that affect organs other than the lungs. These harmful substances are absorbed through the lungs and carried in the bloodstream throughout the body. Tobacco by-products have been found in the cervical mucus of women who smoke. Researchers believe that these substances damage the DNA of cervix cells, contributing to the development of cervical cancer. Smoking also makes the immune system less effective in fighting HPV infections.

American Cancer Society cervical cancer screening guidelines: 
•    All women should begin cervical cancer screening about 3 years after they begin having vaginal intercourse, but no later than 21 years old. Screening should be done every year with the regular Pap test or every 2 years using the newer liquid-based Pap test.
•    Beginning at age 30, women who have had 3 normal Pap test results in a row may get screened every 2 to 3 years. Women older than 30 may also get screened every 3 years with either the conventional or liquid-based Pap test, plus the human papilloma virus (HPV) test.
•    Women 70 years of age or older who have had 3 or more normal Pap tests in a row and no abnormal Pap test results in the last 10 years may choose to stop having Pap tests.
•    Women who have had a total hysterectomy (removal of the uterus and cervix) may also choose to stop having Pap tests, unless the surgery was done as a treatment for cervical cancer or pre-cancer. Women who have had a hysterectomy without removal of the cervix should continue to have Pap tests.
•    Some women -- because of their history -- may need to have a different screening schedule for cervical cancer.

Women who don’t have health insurance can access cervical cancer screening through the New York State Cancer Services Program and the New Jersey Cancer Education & Early Detection Program.  These programs provide no cost breast, cervical and colon cancer screening for the uninsured and underinsured. 

For more information, call the American Cancer Society at 1-800-227-2345 or log onto cancer.org.

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About the American Cancer Society
The American Cancer Society combines an unyielding passion with nearly a century of experience to save lives and end suffering from cancer. As a global grassroots force of more than three million volunteers, we fight for every birthday threatened by every cancer in every community. We save lives by helping people stay well by preventing cancer or detecting it early; helping people get well by being there for them during and after a cancer diagnosis; by finding cures through investment in groundbreaking discovery; and by fighting back by rallying lawmakers to pass laws to defeat cancer and by rallying communities worldwide to join the fight. As the nation’s largest non-governmental investor in cancer research, contributing more than $3.4 billion, we turn what we know about cancer into what we do. As a result, more than 11 million people in America who have had cancer and countless more who have avoided it will be celebrating birthdays this year. To learn more about us or to get help, call us any time, day or night, at 1-800-227-2345 or visit cancer.org.