Routine screenings will protect against cervical cancer

January is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month, emphasizing the importance of routine screenings in the diagnosis of cervical cancer.

“Women need to know that cervical cancer is almost always preventable,” said Dr. Solomon Agbroko, an obstetrician/gynecologist with Aspirus Health in the Upper Peninsula. “Cervical cancer is rare in women who are regularly screened for it. And there’s a vaccine that protects against its most common cause, the human papillomavirus.”

According to the American Cancer Society, an estimated 13,000 women in 2019 were diagnosed with cervical cancer and about 4,250 died from the disease.

Most cervical cancers start with precancerous changes that gradually turn into cancer. Screening can find these abnormal changes, which doctors can then treat, stopping cancer from further developing.

“Screening includes the Pap test and a pelvic exam,” Agbroko said. “For some women, the HPV test may also be included, based on risk factors and their age. It’s OK to stop testing if you’re older than 65 and have had normal Pap test results for many years, or you’ve had a total hysterectomy — both your uterus and cervix have been removed — for a noncancerous condition like fibroids. This is true as long as you’ve had normal Pap smears up until your hysterectomy.”

The American Cancer Society advises that women of average risk get a Pap test every three years, starting at age 21. Aspirus Health recommends talking with your primary care provider to determine the best screening schedule based on your risk factors.

The Family Planning program of the Dickinson-Iron District Health Department provides confidential preventative and reproductive health care services to females and males in both Dickinson and Iron counties. Among the program’s numerous services are cervical cancer screening tests as indicated for age and current guidelines.

The program accepts most private health insurances and Michigan Medicaid. Charges for services are based on a client’s ability to pay according to a sliding fee scale. Services are not denied due to inability to pay. More information on the DIDHD program is available at https://www.didhd.org/familyplanning.php or by calling 906-779-7237.


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