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Carroll County Health Department: January is Cervical Health Awareness Month

January is Cervical Health Awareness Month. The cervix is the opening to a woman’s uterus (womb). Cancer that grows on the cervix is called cervical cancer. Cervical cancer usually starts very slowly, making it one of the most preventable cancers.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, many individuals put off routine cancer screening. Some facilities were unable to complete non-urgent procedures for a time. During Cervical Health Awareness Month, it is important to learn what you can do to keep up with routine cancer screening. Most providers are taking multiple precautions during the COVID-19 pandemic including limiting the number of patients in the office, performing frequent cleaning, etc.

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Early cancers of the cervix usually do not cause symptoms. The American Cancer Society (cancer.org) has screening guidelines to help women get screened regularly. The goal is to find cervical cancer early and treat pre-cancers to keep cervical cancer from starting.

A woman should always follow the recommendations of her health care provider regarding screening and follow-up testing. Use these general recommendations from the American Cancer Society to discuss screening with your own provider:

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  • Screening for cervical cancer should begin at age 25.
  • Ages 25-65 should have a primary HPV (Human Papilloma Virus, the virus that causes most cervical cancers) test every five years. A “primary” HPV test is a test that is done by itself for cervical cancer screening. Other options are to have a co-test that combines an HPV test with a Papanicolaou (“Pap”) test every five years or to have a “Pap” test alone every three years.
  • Those over age 65 who have had regular screening in the past 10 years with normal results and no history of a serious diagnosis in the past 25 years can stop cervical cancer screening.
  • Women who have had a hysterectomy (removal of the uterus, with or without removal of the cervix) should discuss their screening options with their health care provider.
  • It is recommended that a person who has been vaccinated against HPV should still follow the guidelines above.

Screening tests offer the best chance to find cervical cancers and pre-cancerous changes early, when treatment can be most successful. Most health insurance plans cover this screening test. If you are uninsured or underinsured, Maryland’s Breast and Cervical Cancer Screening Program provides breast and cervical cancer screening, diagnosis, and patient navigation services to women across the state. A woman who is a Maryland resident aged 21 to 64 years old may qualify for cervical cancer screening services at no cost if she meets certain eligibility requirements.

If you are a woman who lives in Carroll County, call the Breast and Cervical Cancer Screening Program at the Carroll County Health Department, 410-876-4423 or go to cchd.maryland.gov/health-services-bccp.

Anne Grauel, M.P.H., is a community health educator, Cigarette Restitution Fund Programs, with the Carroll County Health Department.

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