Michigan Recognizes January as National Cervical Cancer Awareness Month

Contact: James McCurtis (517) 241-2112
Agency: Community Health

January 6, 2009

In recognition of National Cervical Cancer Awareness Month, the Michigan Department of Community Health (MDCH) is urging women to get screened, regularly, for cervical cancer.

"A Pap test is an important part of a women's routine health care because it can detect cancer or abnormalities that may lead to cancer of the cervix," said MDCH Director Janet Olszewski. "Regular Pap tests are so important because most cervical cancers are slow-growing and develop over a long period of time. During this time, abnormal cervical tissue can be detected easily by a Pap test and then removed by a health care provider before the abnormal tissue develops into cancer."

Three hundred and sixty-nine Michigan women were diagnosed with invasive cervical cancer in 2005. In 2006, 101 women in Michigan died from cervical cancer. Experts believe that virtually all cervical cancer deaths could be prevented by a combination of safe sex practices, routine Pap tests, and appropriate follow-up of abnormal Pap test results.

The primary cause of cervical cancer is the Human Papillomavirus (HPV), the most common sexually transmitted virus in the United States. Women who have had unprotected sex, intercourse at a young age, and/or many sexual partners are at an increased risk for HPV infection. In 2006, the FDA approved a vaccine that prevents against two strains of HPV that are responsible for 70 percent of all cervical cancers. This vaccine is recommended for females aged 9 to 26. Another, similar vaccine is currently pending FDA approval.

The Michigan Cancer Consortium recommends regular Pap testing and speculum exams for women beginning at age 21 or three years after the onset of sexual activity, whichever occurs first.

Women under age 40 may obtain Pap testing through their health care provider, at family planning clinics available through local health departments or at Planned Parenthood of Michigan affiliates located around the state.

Women ages 40 to 64 who are uninsured or underinsured and whose incomes are at or below 250 percent of the federal poverty level may be eligible to obtain free Pap tests through the Michigan Breast and Cervical Cancer Control Program (BCCCP). Women diagnosed with cervical cancer or pre-cancerous conditions through the BCCCP may apply for Medicaid to pay for their needed treatment.

Since the BCCCP began in 1991, over 1,100 Michigan women have been diagnosed with cervical cancer. For more information on the BCCCP or to locate the nearest BCCCP screening site, call 1-800-922-6266 or visit www.michigancancer.org/bcccp.