Cervical Cancer Awareness

Louisiana has the fourth-highest cervical cancer death rate in the United States.  January is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month and a good reminder to schedule your screening exams.

The CDC recommends that women, trans and nonbinary identified individuals with a cervix should undergo screenings.   It is particularly important that people between the ages of 21 and 65 undergo a Pap test, human papillomavirus (HPV) test or both.

Almost all cervical cancers are caused by human papillomavirus (HPV), a common virus that can be passed from one person to another during sex. The HPV test and the Pap test can help prevent cervical cancer or find it early. The HPV test looks for the virus that can cause cell changes on the cervix. The Pap test looks for precancers, cell changes on the cervix that might become cervical cancer if they are not treated appropriately.

Donna Williams MS MPH DrPH is the director of the Louisiana Breast & Cervical Health Program (LBCHP) , a professor of behavioral and community health at LSU Health New Orleans and a member of the faculty of the Louisiana Cancer Research Center.   She offers good advice about minimizing the risk of cervical cancer:

“Louisiana is one of the highest states in the nation for rates of cervical cancer and cervical cancer deaths. The good news is that this does not have to be. In fact, no one needs to get cervical cancer much less die from it. Cervical cancer is one cancer that is completely preventable and your healthcare provider has several tools that can be used for prevention.  Cervical cancer is caused by a virus that can be prevented through vaccination. The vaccine is over 10 years old and it's been given to millions worldwide and is extremely safe and effective. Also, pap testing is extremely effective in detecting changes to the cervix that can be treated before they become cancer. Talk to your healthcare provider.”

Most insurances cover preventive screenings.  For those who are uninsured, the Louisiana Breast & Cervical Health Program (LBCHP) can help with no-cost cervical cancer screenings. Call 888-599-1073 or visit lbchp.org to see if you are eligible.  Their website lists locations throughout the state of Louisiana that offer screenings for cervical cancer.

LBCHP is funded through the CDC’s National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program and is designed to provide low-income, uninsured, and underserved women access to timely breast and cervical cancer screening and diagnostic services. It was established at the Louisiana State University Health New Orleans School of Public Health.

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