On January 15, 2015, In commemoration of Cervical Cancer Awareness Month the Massachusetts Caucus of Women Legislators sponsored an informational session on the prevention of Cervical Cancer. House Caucus Chair, Rep. Gloria Fox a bold, forward-thinking advocate for women’s health welcomed representatives from Team Maureen Team Maureen - Our Mission and Christine Baze from The Yellow Umbrella The Yellow Umbrella .
10,000 women in the U.S. are diagnosed with cervical cancer and 3700 die of the disease each year. That’s only part of the story. The incidence of cervical cancer in Latina women is nearly twice that of non-Hispanic white women Our Issues: Cervical Cancer | National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health
African American women who are diagnosed with cervical cancer have the lowest 5 year survival rates and are twice as likely to die of cervical cancer as non-Hispanic white women. Black Women's Health Imperative - Black Women & Cervical Cancer – The Unspoken “Other” Cancer
While rates of cervical cancer have declined in white, African American and Latina women, the rate of cervical cancer has actually increased in Asian American women. Cervical cancer is the number one cancer to develop in Vietnamese women. In this group, incidence rates are five times higher than those in non-Hispanic white women. Asian & Pacific Islander Health Forum Cervical Cancer Wiki Alert
The good news is Cervical cancer is nearly 100% curable when detected early and nearly 100% preventable through vaccination.
Because there are no early warning signs of cervical cancer, it is important for women to have regular screenings. There are two tests used for cervical cancer screenings.
Pap Test is a screening that checks for abnormal cells on the cervix. A Pap test can usually detect changes in a cell before it becomes cancerous. It is recommended that women have a Pap test three years after their first sexual intercourse, but no later than 21 years of age. National guidelines recommend a Pap test each year until age 30 and then every two or three years if there were three negative tests in a row.
HPV (Human Papillomavirus) test is a test to detect the presence certain types of HPV. The HPV test is appropriate for women over the age of 30. All women over the age of 30 can benefit from getting the HPV test along with their Pap test, regardless of their Pap results.
With early detection, cervical cancer is one of the most curable cancers.
Unlike most cancers, we know what causes cervical cancer. 99% of all cervical cancer is caused by the HPV. HPV is very common - 80% of all sexually active women will be infected at some point in their lifetime. It is not known why some people develop health problems from HPV and others do not. HPV can remain dormant for months or even years which is why even women who are in monogamous relationships or are no longer sexually active continue to get screened.
The other good news is that there is an HPV vaccine. HPV vaccination would prevent more than 20,000 HPV-associated cancers diagnosed each year in women; cervical cancer is the most common. About 12,000 HPV-associated cancers occur each year in men; oropharyngeal cancers are the most common. (Cancer of the back of the throat, tongue, and tonsils)
According to the CDC, all girls and boys who are 11 or 12 years old should get the three dose series of HPV vaccine to protect against HPV. Teens who did not get the vaccine or did not get all three doses when they were younger are advised to speak with their doctor about receiving the vaccination. Young women can get HPV vaccine through age 26, and young men can get vaccinated through age 21.
Massachusetts is ahead of the United States in our children being vaccinated against HPV with 62% of girls and 53% of boys having had at least their first of the three vaccine doses. That is still far from the Healthy People 2020 goal of 80% of the population vaccinated but our numbers are rising.
Written by Caucus Intern Palma McLaughlin