January is the national observance of Cervical Health Awareness Month. The Harford County Health Department wishes to remind the community that although cervical cancer is one of the most preventable of cancers that affect women, an estimated 4,220 deaths and an estimated 12,170 new cases of cervical cancer were recorded in the United States in 2012.
Formerly known as Cervical Cancer Awareness Month, Cervical Health Awareness Month is observed in January of each year. The name of the national observance was updated a few years ago to recognize women diagnosed with non-cancerous cervical diseases that still require follow-up and, in some cases, treatment. Harford County Health Officer Susan Kelly states, “As part of our ongoing women’s health initiatives, the health department wants to educate women and their loved ones concerning the risks of cervical cancer and HPV, as well as the importance of early detection,” since, she continues, “early detection simply saves lives.”
Cervical cancer, which affects the cervix, is found at the lowest part of a woman’s uterus According to the National Cancer Institute, cervical cancer is usually a slow-growing cancer almost always caused by human papillomavirus (HPV) infection that may not have symptoms but can be found with regular Pap tests. Currently, there are two HPV vaccines approved for use in the United States for females ages 10 to 25.
A Pap test is a simple and effective procedure that can detect abnormal cells by taking a sample of cells from the cervix and examining it for abnormalities. Pap tests can detect pre-cancerous cells that, with treatment, can be eliminated, thereby preventing cervical cancer. Cervical cancer screenings can be quick and easy and women are recommended to be screened if they are sexually active and/or over the age of 21.
For those concerned about the cost of screening and medical care, the Harford County Breast and Cervical Cancer Program offers no-cost mammograms and pap test screenings for women who qualify. Qualifications include being a Harford County Resident between the ages of 40 and 64 with limited income, and little or no health insurance.
More information on cervical cancer and cervical cancer screening is available on the Harford County Health Department website --- click Website below --- or by calling the Office of Cancer Prevention Services at 410-612-1780.