Cervical Cancer is Preventable Though HPV Vaccination Statistics Remain Low

LANSING – In recognition that January is Cervical Health Awareness Month, the Michigan Department of Community Health (MDCH) is reminding all women to stay current on their cervical cancer screening as a means to improve their health in 2014. In 2010, 344 Michigan women were diagnosed with invasive cervical cancer, and in 2011, 121 Michigan women died from this disease. Despite these statistics, cervical cancer is essentially preventable.

About 70 percent of cervical cancer in the United States could be prevented by the timely, extensive and consistent provision of the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination. Three doses of HPV vaccine are recommended for girls and boys at 11-12 years of age, but the vaccine can be given up through age 26. The HPV vaccine is safe, effective, and produces better immunity when given at the recommended age of 11-12 years. However, as of Oct. 2013, only 30.1 percent of females and 7.5 percent of males ages 13-17 had received the entire three-dose vaccine series, according to Michigan Care Improvement Registry data.

A simple, affordable, and easy-to-administer screening test for cervical cancer has been widely available for 70 years. Still, more than half of cervical cancer deaths are seen in women who have either never had a Pap test, or have not had testing in more than five years. Along with lack of screening, the most significant risk factor for cervical cancer is infection by the HPV. In fact, 99 percent of cervical cancers are caused by HPV.

Screening for cervical cancer is recommended to begin at age 21. Under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), women’s preventive health care – such as mammograms, screenings for cervical cancer, prenatal care, immunizations, and other services – is covered. Pap tests are available at Family Planning Clinics, and for women ages 40-64, testing is accessible through the Breast and Cervical Cancer Control Program.

Vaccines for Children (VFC), Medicaid, MI-Child, and most health insurances pay for the HPV vaccine. If your child does not have health insurance, or does not have insurance that covers these vaccines, ask your health care provider or local health department about the VFC program. VFC provides no-or-low cost vaccines to eligible children, 18 years of age and younger.

For more information regarding HPV and cervical cancer, visit www.michigan.gov/hpv or www.michigan.gov/cancer. More information about vaccination in general can be found at www.michigan.gov/teenvaccines.  

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