As January is Cervical Cancer Screening Month, State Senator Eric Adams (D-Brooklyn) today encouraged all adult women to take advantage of regular Pap smear screenings, which test for cancer of the cervix.
"One of the great success stories in women's health is our ability to detect cervical cancer very early, in its most curable stage," Senator Adams said. "I urge all women to help spread the word that cervical cancer is a highly treatable form of the disease, but early detection, through cervical cancer screening tests, is critical."
Since the introduction of the screening test known as the Pap smear in the 1950s, the death rate for cervical cancer has dropped by more than 70 percent. Studies now show that cervical cancer is usually caused by a common, sexually transmitted virus– human papilloma virus, or HPV. While more than 100 strains, or types, of HPV have been identified, only a few "high risk" strains can lead, in rare cases, to cervical cancer. Doctors can now screen for this virus as well.
"We live in an age of unparalleled progress in diagnostic screenings and treatment options," Senator Adams said. "Women should take advantage of the screening tools readily available to guard against this deadly disease. This is especially true for Hispanic and African-American women, whose rates of cervical cancer are much higher than white women."
By age 50, at least 80 percent of American women will have contracted HPV. Since the virus typically doesn't present symptoms, women are often unaware that they are infected. The body's immune system clears the infection in most instances. Only certain types of HPV infection that persist can lead to cervical cancer.
Senator Adams also noted that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently approved a vaccine for girls that provides protection against the two types of HPV responsible for about 70 percent of all cervical cancers.
"Unfortunately, far too many women neglect to include routine cervical screening as part of a healthy lifestyle," said Senator Adams, adding that New York's Healthy Women Partnership Program provides breast and cervical cancer diagnostic and treatment services for women who are low-income, uninsured, or underserved. To learn more about program eligibility, call Cancer Information Services at 1-800-422-6237 and ask for a contact name and phone number for your county or borough. You can also get information by visiting the state Health Department website at www.health.state.ny.us.
"Be diligent with routine health care checkups," Senator Adams concluded. "Experts estimate that about one third of women recommended to have regular Pap smears do not. I urge any woman who may be unsure as to whether she needs cervical screening to empower herself with the facts, and speak with her physician. In this day and age, no one should miss the opportunity to detect cervical cancer early, in its most curable stage."