Maryland women urged to get screened for cervical cancer through Pap tests

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Of all cancers that affect women, cervical cancer is one of the most preventable. Pap test screening finds cervical cancers and pre-cancers early. But the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination can prevent boys and girls from being infected with the virus that causes cervical and several other cancers. For Cervical Health Awareness Month, Maryland recommends that women get Pap tests and that preteens get HPV vaccinations.

In 2016, an estimated 220 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 organizations focus on promoting regular Pap tests among women 21 years and older, as well as HPV vaccinations for preteen boys and girls.

“No woman in Maryland should have to hear the words: ‘You have cervical cancer,’” said Van T. Mitchell, Secretary of the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. “With increased cancer screening and HPV vaccination rates, we can prevent cervical cancer diagnoses in our state.”

In Maryland, the majority of women 21 to 65 years old, about 88 percent, have had a Pap test in the past three years. However, younger women (ages 21 to 29) and non-black minority 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). However, only 39 percent of girls have had all three doses of the vaccine. Only about 25 percent of boys have been fully vaccinated.

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 who do not have health insurance or who have out-of-pocket costs may be eligible for a Pap test at no cost; to learn more about this, Marylanders should call 1-800-477-9774 to discuss eligibility requirements. Medicaid enrollment through Maryland Health Connection is available year-round for Marylanders who 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, call 1-800-477-9774 or visit http://goo.gl/xp36eD.