Get Healthy: January is Cervical Health Awareness month
Carson City Health and Human Services
This column appears in the Nevada Appeal Wednesday health pages. It addresses topics related to the health of our community.
To kick off 2015, Carson City Health and Human Services is pleased to join The American Sexual Health Association (ASHA) and the National Cervical Cancer Coalition (NCCC) to recognize January as Cervical Health Awareness Month and urge every woman to make a New Year’s resolution to talk to her healthcare provider about preventing cervical cancer.
Each year in the U.S. more than 12,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer, and more than 4,000 die as a result. Cervical cancer is a profound health equity issue: in both the U.S. and abroad the disease is linked strongly with poverty and lack of access to medical care, a fact all the more frustrating because screening tests and vaccines exist that give us the capacity to essentially eliminate the disease.
“Screening is the best way to detect abnormal cells and prevent cancer,” says Roni Galas, the Clinic Manager at Carson City Health and Human Services.
She continues, “Screening consists of Pap smear testing and for some women testing for the presence of the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). Talk to your health care provider about the screening intervals that are recommended for you based on your age. For women 26 and under the HPV vaccine is recommended as an important step in cervical cancer prevention.”
Access to these life-saving screening tools is crucial, and ASHA/NCCC President Lynn Barclay says there are programs in place to help.
“Provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) require insurance plans to cover cervical cancer screening tests at zero cost to women,” she said. Barclay also points out HPV vaccines, which are available for both males and females, are covered by the vast majority of health insurance plans. “Ensuring greater access to these tests and vaccines is not only the right thing to do, but also a wise, efficient way to spend our health care dollars,” she says.
Carson City Health and Human Services offers women’s health services, including screening for cervical cancer, at our office on Long Street in Carson City, as well as the Douglas County Health facility on Highway 395 in Gardnerville.
Screening and vaccination services at CCHHS are available on a sliding fee scale for those without insurance. We also accept Medicaid, Nevada Check-up and most private insurance plans. The Vaccines for Children Program provides free HPV vaccine for females up to age 18 who are uninsured. With the VFC program a resident pays only the small cost of vaccine administration.
Even with medical tools that can help prevent cervical cancer, an important first step is starting the conversation, which many women feel uncomfortable doing. A lack of comfort with these topics even results in women avoiding gynecologic care due to a sense of shame.
Barclay advises, “There’s no single, simple solution to ending cervical cancer but it’s clear it involves more than just quality health care. When it comes to sexual and reproductive health we should be comfortable in our own skin, and have the confidence to seek the care and support we need.”