January is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month and Cobb & Douglas Public Health (CDPH) wants to help protect its residents from one of the leading preventable cancers diagnosed in Georgia women.

According to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report in 2012, nearly 8 million U.S. women ages 21 – 65 indicated that they had gone five years without a Pap test, but more than 93 percent of cervical cancers could be prevented by screening and HPV (human papillomavirus) vaccinations. These missed opportunities for early detection and prevention are causing over 4,000 deaths from cervical cancer each year. The American Cancer Society (ACS) reported that in 2014 an estimated 12,360 new cases of invasive cervical cancer were diagnosed nationwide, resulting in 4,020 deaths.

“Women in Cobb and Douglas counties are at risk of developing cervical cancer because they aren’t getting Pap tests at the recommended rate of every three years after age 21,” said Dawn Krahwinkel, CDPH Women’s Health Coordinator and STI Program Director.

 Even though the mortality rates for women in Georgia with cervical cancer have been steadily declining since 1980, it is still the 12th most diagnosed cancer in Georgia women. But with Pap tests and screenings, many of which are offered to low-income women at little to no cost through the BreasTEST & More program at CDPH, the rate of risk and the rate of death from this preventable disease can be reduced.

 “Early detection and screening are crucial to treating pre-cancerous cells on the cervix before it develops into an invasive cancer,” Krahwinkel said. “Getting a Pap test, taking that little step of prevention, could save so many women’s lives.”