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It's Time to Get Screened

Nearly 12,000 people will be diagnosed and 4,000 people will die this year from cervical cancer – a cancer that is primarily caused by a common virus, the human papillomavirus (HPV). While most adults are exposed to this virus in their lifetimes, the body often clears the virus, with no harm done.

However, for some individuals, the virus leads to cervical cancer. In rare cases, high-risk strains may also lead to cancer of the mouth, anus, head or neck – which are found in both men and women.

The good news is that a vaccine will stop HPV from developing into cervical cancer about 70 percent of the time. The HPV vaccine is approved for females and males ages 9 to 26 years of age. However, it is most routinely given between the ages of 11 and 12. If you have a family member or friend in this age group, talk to them about getting vaccinated – it could save their life.

Another easy way to stop cervical cancer is to catch it early. Cervical cancer is one of the few cancers that can be screened for, caught early and treated early – when survival rates are the highest. The screening for cervical cancer is called a Pap test. This test should be performed beginning the age of 21, and repeated every three years.

If payment is an issue, the federal Vaccines for Children Program will provide free vaccines to those under age 19 who qualify. For more information and availability, contact your county health department.

Most cervical cancers are found in women who have not had a Pap test, or who have not had one in five or more years. If you are due for a Pap test, or have a friend or family member who is due for this life saving screening, encourage them to get screened.

For women who have no means to pay for this exam, the State of Oregon has a program called the Breast and Cervical Cancer Program. If you are a woman of 40 years or older and are uninsured or underinsured, you may qualify to receive free mammograms and Pap screenings for breast and cervical cancer through this program.

For more information, talk to your doctor.