Modified: May 17, 2016 12:25pm
From the Office of the Commissioner of Health, Dr. Gale R. Burstein
Date January 26, 2016
CONTACT: Mary C. St. Mary/Mary.StMary@Erie.Gov
Phone: 716.858.4941/ Mobile: 716.253.3925
ECDOH Recognizes Cervical Health Awareness Month
Screening Tests and HPV Vaccinations Save Lives
ERIE COUNTY, NY—An estimated 12,000 women each year are diagnosed with cervical cancer. Of those women, about one-third will die as a result of the cancer. Now, cervical cancer is a highly preventable and treatable cancer, thanks to human papillomavirus (“HPV”) vaccination and improved cervical cancer screening.
January is designated Cervical Health Awareness Month to encourage females across the country to get screened for cervical cancer and receive the HPV vaccine if they are eligible. Today, detection tools and vaccines make cervical cancer a condition that is relatively easy to prevent and treat. When females are not vaccinated nor screened regularly, either due to a lack of information or inadequate health care access, cervical cancer can still be a serious, even fatal, illness.
"Medical advances have put us in a remarkable position to prevent cervical cancer, but technology is only half the battle," said Erie County Commissioner of Health Dr. Gale Burstein. "It's imperative we continue efforts that not only promote greater access to health care, but to also educate about cervical cancer and how to prevent this disease."
This year’s focus is to increase the number of eligible females receiving the HPV vaccine. HPV infection is very common and is the main cause of cervical cancer. It is estimated that at least 75% of the reproductive-age population is infected with one or more strains of genital HPV. In most cases, the virus causes no symptoms or health problems and goes away on its own when a healthy immune system clears the infection. But among 5%of women, a persistent infection occurs with high-risk HPV strains, which causes nearly all cases of cervical cancer. The HPV vaccine, given in three doses, can protect females against the HPV strains that cause most cervical cancer cases and should be given before an infection occurs, ideally, at ages 11 to 12 years.
“It is important for parents and primary care physicians to promote the HPV vaccination. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) recommends the vaccine for 11 to 26 year olds. Fewer than half of vaccine-eligible females have completed the three-dose series. Since HPV is a preventable disease that causes cancer and the HPV vaccine is very safe and proven effective, increasing vaccine uptake is a priority," said Burstein.
Cervical cancer develops slowly, starting as a precancerous condition known as dysplasia. These abnormal cells are easily detected through a Pap test and can be treated effectively. There is also an HPV test that, when combined with a Pap test in women over age 30, can help identify women at risk for developing cervical cancer. If left undetected, dysplasia can turn into cervical cancer, which can potentially spread to the bladder, intestines, lungs and liver.
Women may not suspect cervical cancer until it has become advanced or metastasizes, a fact which underscores the importance of regular Pap tests. Women are encouraged to talk to their health care provider about recommended screening tests and their frequency. Symptoms of cervical cancer, which may not appear until the cancer is advanced, include abnormal vaginal bleeding, unusual discharge, and periods that last longer or have a heavier flow than usual and bleeding after menopause.
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