Cervical Cancer is Preventable; HPV Vaccination Rates Remain Low

Contact: Jennifer Smith 517-241-2112

For Immediate Release: January 7, 2015

LANSING, Mich. – In recognition of January as Cervical Health Awareness Month, the Michigan Department of Community Health (MDCH) is reminding all women to stay current on their cervical cancer screening to improve their health in 2015, and to prevent cervical cancer in the future. In 2011, 358 Michigan women were diagnosed with invasive cervical cancer, and in 2012, 114 Michigan women died from this disease.

“About 70 percent of cervical cancer in the United States could be prevented through human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination,” says Dr. Matthew Davis, Chief Medical Executive of the MDCH. “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 Dec. 2014, only 32.3 percent of females and 16.1 percent of males ages 13-17 had received the entire three-dose vaccine series, according to Michigan Care Improvement Registry data. Additionally, the simple, affordable, and easy-to-administer screening test to detect cervical cancer – the Pap test – 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 HPV infection – 99 percent of cervical cancers are caused by HPV.

Screening for cervical cancer is recommended to begin at age 21. Through the Healthy Michigan Plan, women’s preventive health care – such as screenings for cervical cancer, mammograms, prenatal care, immunizations, and other services – is covered without co-pays. Pap tests are available at Family Planning Clinics, and for women ages 40-64, Pap testing is accessible through the Breast and Cervical Cancer Control Program (BCCCP). For more information about the BCCCP, call 800-922-MAMM (6266).

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 vaccinations in general can be found at www.michigan.gov/teenvaccines.