SWEETWATER COUNTY — Regular screening and a key vaccination series can help prevent most cases of cervical cancer, according to the Wyoming Department of Health (WDH).
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, every year more than 12,000 women get cervical cancer and 4,000 die from the disease across the country. In Wyoming, 17 cases of cervical cancer were diagnosed and 10 women died of the disease according to the 2012 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey (BRFSS).
“While screening tests have greatly reduced deaths caused by cervical cancer over the years, we still see deaths and, unfortunately, these are often among women who aren’t being screened as they should be,” said Denise Padilla, professional development and outreach coordinator with the WDH Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program.
Padilla said more than half of all new cervical cancers are in women who have never been screened or have not been screened in the previous five years. “Wyoming’s cervical cancer screening rates have consistently been low with a recent ranking of 45th in the nation for women receiving Pap tests,” she said. The Papanicolaou (Pap) test screens for abnormal cells that may develop into cancer.
In 2012 approximately 33,000 Wyoming women reported they had not had a Pap test in the last five years. And about 13,000 Wyoming women reported they had never had a Pap test.
Women should start receiving Pap tests at age 21 and should continue screening as recommended by a medical professional. “Health history, age and other factors can affect how often someone should be screened,” Padilla said.
Most cervical cancers are caused by a common virus called human papilloma virus (HPV). HPV is spread through sexual contact and can cause an infection in the cervix. HPV infection can change cervix cells into pre-cancer cells. “Sometimes if these pre-cancer cells aren’t found and treated, the pre-cancer cells can turn into cancer,” Padilla said.
Padilla noted as many as 93 percent of cervical cancer deaths could be prevented through a combination of screening and vaccinations that can help prevent HPV infections. The HPV vaccine is a three-dose series and is recommended for 11 and 12 year old girls and boys. Vaccination is also recommended for 13 through 26 year old females and 13 through 21 year old males who have not completed the vaccination series. Males aged 22 through 26 years may also be vaccinated. Vaccination is also routinely recommended for both men who have sex with men and immunocompromised persons aged 22 through 26 years.
Locally screening is available at Memorial Hospital of Sweetwater County’s Obstetrics & Women’s Health Clinic call (307)-352-8383 to setup a screening appointment.
Low-income, uninsured women may qualify for a free Pap test and mammogram through the WDH Wyoming Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program. Call 1-800-264-1296 for more information.