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Cervical cancer awareness month

The Clinton County Health Department's Cancer Screening Program wants all women in the county to take time this January to observe Cervical Health Awareness Month by scheduling an annual gynecological exam.

"This is an excellent time for women to talk to their health care provider about getting screened for cervical cancer,," said Lisa Marlow, CCHD senior public health educator. "With regular screening and follow-up care, cervical cancer is avoidable and, if caught early, curable."

Cervical cancer is almost always caused by persistent infection with the human papillomavirus (HPV). There usually aren't any symptoms of cervical cancer in its earliest, most treatable stage. That is why having a regular pap test is key to prevention. In the U.S., the pap test has reduced cervical cancer rates by more than 70 percent.

In addition to HPV, there are other factors that increase a woman's risk of developing cervical cancer, including not having regular pap tests; not following with your health care provider if you had a pap test result that is not normal; having HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, or another condition that makes it hard for your body to fight off health problems; smoking "All women are at risk for cervical cancer," Marlow said. "It is especially important for women who have not had a pap test within the past five years to get screened because six out of 10 cervical cancers occur in women who have never received a pap test or have not had one in the past five years."

It is also important to continue getting a pap test, even if you think you are too old to have a child, or are not having sex anymore. Many women older than 30 can be tested every 2-3 years. It is important to remember that women of all ages need to see their gynecologist once a year, whether or not they receive a pap test.

New York State funds the Cancer Services Program to provide access to cervical cancer screening to uninsured women, age 40 and older. To contact the Cancer Screening Program, visit www.clintonhealth.org or call 562-7112.

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