January is Cervical Health Awareness Month
The Wyoming Department of Health is reminding women to take steps to reduce their risk of cervical cancer.
Carol Peterson, Wyoming Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program manager, said in recent years there has been significant progress in the fight against cervical cancer.
“A more sensitive liquid-based Pap test is now widely used by healthcare providers and the addition of HPV testing for women over the age of 30 has allowed providers to determine which women with abnormal Pap tests are most at risk for developing cervical cancer,” Peterson said. “Also, HPV immunization is now widely available to protect young people against contracting the HPV virus types that cause most cervical cancers.”
The Wyoming Department of Health has released a “Cervical Cancer in Wyoming: Issue Brief” that reports on Pap test screening trends and cervical cancer rates. Facts listed in the report include:
- Wyoming is ranked low at 45th in the nation for women reporting they had at least one Pap test in the past three years.
- Wyoming currently has a 78.3 percent Pap test screening rate; the national median is 81.2 percent.
- Wyoming’s current cervical cancer incidence rate of 8.62 is higher than the U.S. incidence rate of 7.88 (per 100,000 women) and our cervical cancer death rate of 2.99 is higher than the U.S. death rate of 2.17 (per 100,000 women).
The Wyoming Comprehensive Cancer Consortium recommends women should begin Pap test screening at age 21 and continue screening every two to three years or as recommended by their healthcare provider. Peterson said because cervical cancer has no symptoms in the early stages, it is very important for women ages 21-65 to have regular Pap tests.
Other steps women can take to potentially reduce their cervical cancer risk include:
- Reduce the number of sexual partners and use condoms to reduce exposure to sexually transmitted diseases, including HPV infection linked with cervical cancer.
- Delay starting sexual activity until after adolescence.
- Do not smoke and avoid exposure to secondhand smoke.
- Consider a diet high in fruits and vegetables.
An online cervical cancer resource tool kit and other informational materials are available from the Wyoming Department of Health at www.health.wyo.gov/phsd/bccedp .