The first month of the New Year marks Cervical Cancer Awareness Month, and Cobb & Douglas Public Health (CDPH) advises women to make Pap tests and screenings part of their New Year’s resolutions.

Cervical cancer – one of five main types of cancers than can affect the reproductive organs of women – is highly preventable, and is almost always caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). The Pap smear and the HPV test are both used to either screen or detect cancerous cells in a woman’s cervix.

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.

However, the rates of cervical cancer have been steadily declining because more women have been getting their doctor-recommended screenings. Most women ages 21 and older should have a Pap test every three years if their first test is normal. Women over the age of 30 may choose to combine the HPV test with their regular Pap screenings, as cervical cancer most commonly occurs in women 30 years of age and older.

In addition, there is a vaccine to prevent the spread of HPV that is recommended to boys and girls ages 11 and 12, but can be completed up until the age of 26.

“This cancer is so preventable, we really urge women to make Pap tests and screenings part of their routine doctor’s visits. Eligible low income women in Cobb and Douglas counties can visit CDPH to see if they qualify for low or no-cost Pap tests through the BreasTest & More program, so there are always options open to our residents,” said Dawn Krahwinkel, CDPH Women’s Health Coordinator and STI Program Director.

For more information, please call 770-514-2300.