We can prevent (some) cancers; cervical is one

To the Editor:

If you could prevent cancer, wouldn’t you? You can.

Of the more than 100 different types of cancer, cervical cancer is one of the most preventable.

There are two ways to prevent cervical cancer: vaccination and regular screening.

Getting vaccinated against the human papillomavirus (HPV) is important because nearly all cases of cervical cancer are caused by HPV. The vaccine is recommended for boys and girls between the ages of 9 and 14. It can be given to young adults up to age 26. The vaccine protects girls from cervical cancer later in life, and it protects both boys and girls against several other cancers caused by HPV. If you are over 26 and not yet vaccinated for HPV, you can speak with your doctor about the possible benefits of getting the vaccine later in life. Over 12 years of research has shown that the HPV vaccine is safe and effective at preventing cervical cancer.

As for screenings, cervical cancer screening can find abnormal cells in the cervix. If found, these abnormal cells can be monitored and removed to prevent cancer from developing. If cancer is found early during a screening test, it may be easier to treat.

Cervical cancer screening should begin for all women when they turn 21. Most health insurances in New York cover cervical cancer screening at no cost to the patient. It is recommended that women ages 21 to 29 years old get screened with a Pap test every three years. Women ages 30 to 65 years can choose to be screened every three years with a Pap test; every five years with a high-risk (HR) HPV test; or every five years with co-testing, a combination of a Pap test and a HR HPV test. If you are a woman who has had her cervix removed, please talk with your doctor to decide if cervical cancer screenings are right for you.

If you or someone you know is uninsured and is worried about paying for their cancer screenings, please give the Cancer Services Program of the Finger Lakes Region a call at 1-877-803-8070. The Cancer Services Program (CSP) is a New York State funded program whose goal is to get as many women screened for whom it is recommended. The CSP will pay for cervical cancer screenings for eligible women starting at age 40. Women may also be able to have breast and colon cancer screenings through the program. The CSP will also cover follow-up testing, if needed, at no cost to the participant.

HANNAH FARLEY

Regional Community Liason

Cancer Services Program of the Finger Lakes Region

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