Early detection with a simple Pap test is the most effective strategy for preventing deaths from cervical cancer, according to medical authorities. And education is the best prescription for putting that strategy to work.
Educating women about cervical cancer screening is the primary goal of Cervical Cancer Awareness Month, which is being observed during January by state and national public health officials.
Minnesota health officials are using the event to remind women that free screening services are readily available to uninsured or under-insured women in the state. The services are offered through some 300 area clinics sponsored by the Minnesota Department of Health. The clinics provide breast and cervical cancer screening to women in all parts of the state.
In a typical year, about 190 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer in Minnesota, according to MDH. The illness accounts for 45 deaths a year in the state, even though the illness is almost 100 percent curable if it's caught early enough.
And yet, according to national estimates, as many as 60 to 80 percent of women with newly diagnosed cervical cancer haven't had a Pap test in the last five years. Those least likely to have received appropriate screening services include older women, the poor and women who lack insurance coverage. Latina, African-American and Asian-American women are also less likely than other women to be getting screened according to current recommendations. Routine Pap tests are an important preventive health measure, and women are encouraged to ask their physician about how often to have it done.
The clinics participating in the MDH program have performed some 90,000 Pap tests for cervical cancer since the first of the clinics opened in 1992. They have provided treatment for precancerous conditions in 1,500 women. Twenty-five women have received a life-saving early diagnosis of cervical cancer through the program.
Free services are available through the program from women who have inadequate insurance coverage for screening service -- including women whose coverage requires co-payments or deductibles. The services are also available to women who meet generous income eligibility guidelines.
For more information about the clinics call the MDH at 1-888-643-2584 or call Crow Wing County Health Department at 824-1098.
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