January is Cervical Health Awareness Month and the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Health Department wants residents to know that eligible women can get a free cervical cancer screening. Regular screening is a proven way to protect your cervical health.
According to the latest (2013) CDC data on cervical cancer, 11,955 women in the US were diagnosed with cervical cancer that year while 4,217 died. The same data show in Tennessee that approximately 9 per 100,000 people were newly diagnosed that year and about 3 per 100,000 died. Tennessee’s death rate is higher than the national rate and is comparable to national death rates for oral, skin, or stomach cancers.
“Women 21 years and up should have regular screenings,” said Dora Coker, Registered Nurse and Coordinator of the Tennessee Breast and Cervical Screening Program (TBCSP) for the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Health Department, “Lack of money, insurance, or a regular doctor should not be the reason why Hamilton County women do not get screened.”
Almost all cervical cancers are caused by the Human Papillomavirus (HPV), a common virus that can be passed from one person to another during sex. HPV usually causes no symptoms so most people do not know they have it. Both men and women can become infected with and be carriers of HPV. HPV usually goes away on its own but in some people it persists and over time can cause cancer.
The Health Department offers the HPV vaccine. According to CDC data, there has been a 64% reduction in HPV infections among teen girls in the United States since beginning to recommend the vaccine in 2006. The vaccine is recommended for girls and boys who are 11 or 12 years old, but if they did not get it at that age, they may get the series anytime up to the age of 26 years. Clients may consult with our clinical staff about any questions or concerns they may have about the vaccine by calling 209-8340.
Other risk factors for cervical cancer include:
- Smoking tobacco.
- Having HIV (the virus that causes AIDS) or another condition that makes it hard for your body to fight off health problems.
- Using birth control pills for a long time (five or more years).
- Having given birth to three or more children.
- Having several sexual partners.
Details about eligibility for the Health Department’s free cervical and breast cancer screening can be found on our website or by calling 209-8009. If you are not eligible for the free screenings, you may still use the Health Department as your screening service provider according to criteria.