Anyone who has a cervix can develop cervical cancer. The good news is that cervical cancer can be prevented with regular screenings. Getting regular screenings, like a Pap smear or HPV (Human Papillomavirus) test, can find cervical cancer in its earliest stages, when there are more treatment options available.
Screening tests can also find abnormal cells that lead to cancer. These cells can be removed even before they become cancer.
Cervical cancer is highest among individuals over 30 years old. More than 90% of cervical cancers begin as an HPV infection. HPV is a very common sexually transmitted infection that will usually clear up on its own, but when it doesn’t, may lead to cancer. It is important for individuals with a cervix to get screened regularly (every three years) starting at age 21. From ages 21 to 29 people should get a Pap test every three years. Individuals ages 30-65 should get a Pap test every three years or an HR-HPV test with or without a Pap test every five years. It is important to note that abnormal findings do not automatically mean cancer has been found.
In addition to regular screenings, a few ways to reduce the risk of cervical cancer include following up with healthcare professionals if there are any abnormal findings, limiting the number of sexual partners and using protection, and not smoking or trying your best to quit if you do smoke.
Uninsured individuals can contact the local Cancer Services Program (CSP) of the Finger Lakes at 585-224-3070 to find out if they qualify for free cervical screenings. If cancer is found, there are organizations, including the CSP of the Finger Lakes, that will help people without health insurance access the Medicaid Cancer Treatment Program, as well as other supports.
Submitted by Katlyn Newberry, community outreach coordinator, Cancer Services Program of the Finger Lakes Region