By Bob LaMendola, Florida Department of Health in Broward
Cervical cancer is the 15th leading cause of cancer deaths among women in Florida, but it is the easiest gynecological cancer to prevent through screening, vaccination and lifestyle changes.
Starting in January, which is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month, the Florida Department of Health in Broward (DOH-Broward) reminds women to visit a health provider regularly to be screened with a Pap test.
Also, young adults and adolescents should consider getting the vaccine against Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) from your provider or DOH-Broward. Nearly all cervical cancers are caused by HPV, a common virus that is spread during sexual activity.
Broward County has higher rates of cervical cancer than the state. In 2014, 87 cases of the cancer were diagnosed in Broward – 47 percent at late stage when it is harder to treat successfully. In 2016, cervical cancer claimed 26 women’s lives in Broward.
Qualified women ages 50 to 64 who are underinsured can get a free Pap test – and follow up doctor visits, if needed – from the Florida Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program. Call (954) 762-3649 to see if you qualify.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), here are easy ways to prevent or reduce the risk of cervical cancer:
- Get HPV vaccine (two or three shots) between ages nine and 26 to prevent the virus. Vaccine is recommended for boys and girls to prevent cancers of the cervix, mouth and throat.
- See your health care provider regularly for a Pap test between ages 21 and 65. The test looks for cell changes on the cervix that may become cancer if not treated. Your doctor can determine how often you need the test, depending on family history and age. If your results are normal, you may need the test only once every three or five years.
- Don’t smoke.
- Limit the number of sexual partners. The risk of cervical cancer is higher for those who have early sexual activity.
Cervical cancer causes no symptoms in the early stages. In later stages, it can cause abnormal bleeding, vaginal discharge and pain.
On Pap tests: http://broward.floridahealth.gov/programs-and-services/clinical-and-nutrition-services/florida-breast-cervical-cancer/index.html
On HPV: www.cdc.gov/vaccines/who/teens/vaccines/hpv.html