BALTIMORE — Of all cancers that affect women, cervical cancer is one of the most preventable. The human papillomavirus (HPV) causes cervical cancer and other cancers. For Cervical Health Awareness Month, Maryland is recommending that women get Pap tests and that preteens get HPV vaccinations.
In 2015, an estimated 230 women in Maryland will be told that they have cervical cancer. Seventy-three Maryland women will die from the disease this year. In order to eliminate these preventable illnesses and deaths, it is essential that individuals, families, healthcare providers and public health focus on promoting regular Pap tests among women 21 and older, as well as HPV vaccinations of preteen boys and girls.
“There is a great opportunity in Maryland to prevent even more cervical cancer diagnoses each year, by increasing cancer screening and HPV vaccination rates,” said Dr. Laura Herrera Scott, Acting Secretary of the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. “HPV vaccinations amount to cancer prevention.”
In Maryland, the majority of women aged 21 to 65 years, about 88 percent, have had a Pap test in the past three years. However, younger women (aged 21 to 29 years) and non-white and non-black women are not getting screened as often as their counterparts. The HPV vaccine is highly recommended for girls and boys, 11 or 12 years old (and up until age 26 for those who have not been vaccinated yet). However, here in Maryland, only 31 percent of girls have had all three doses of the vaccine. Only 20 percent of boys have had their first dose.
There are many options for obtaining and paying for Pap tests and the HPV vaccine. Health insurance can cover this cancer screening and vaccine. For example, lower-income women 40 to 64 years old who do not have health insurance or who have out-of-pocket costs might be eligible for a Pap test at no cost. Call 1-800-477-9774 to discuss the eligibility requirements. Medicaid enrollment through Maryland Health Connection is available year-round, if Marylanders qualify.
The Center for Cancer Prevention and Control works to promote cervical cancer screening and is dedicated to the implementation of initiatives aimed at decreasing cervical cancer mortality rates in Maryland. For informative videos and other materials, please call 1-800-477-9774 or visit http://phpa.dhmh.maryland.gov/cancer/SitePages/HPV.aspx.