Cervical Cancer Awareness MonthDon't be another statistic, get tested

Leann pettit

In 2004, I toured Cedar Crest College in Allentown. The College president, Dr. Dorothy Gulbenkian Blaney started her welcome speech by slamming an Emmy award on a table, pointing to it and saying, "If you come to Cedar Crest College, you can do this."

Blaney was an amazing woman who filled a room with her energy. She is the reason why I attended Cedar Crest, and I am positive I am not the only alumnae that can say the same about Blaney.

In July 2006, the summer after my freshman year, she passed away after a long struggle with cervical cancer.

September is National Cervical Cancer Awareness Month. Royersford and Phoenixville are participating in the Philadelphia Turn the Towns Teal project. On September 9, an advisory panel from the Food and Drug Administration endorsed GlaxoSmithKline PLC's proposed cervical cancer vaccine, Cervarix.

Cervical cancer affects 10,000 women in the U.S. each year and 4,000 die from the disease.

Currently, Merck & Co's Gardasil is on the market and recommended for girls and women ages 11 to 26.

Gardasil can prevent 70 percent of cervical cancer cases and the most dangerous of the human papillomavirus (HPV), but not all. Routine tests are still recommended for women ages 21 to 65.

According to www.mayoclinic.com, there are two main types of cervical cancer: Squamous cell carcinomas which accounts for 80 to 90 percent of all cervical cancers, affects the bottom of the cervix. Adenocarcinomas affects the upper portion of the cervix and accounts for 10 to 20 percent of cervical cancer cases.

However, while HPV is found in all cervical cancer cases, it is also a very common virus and most women never develop cervical cancer.

Mayo Clinc recommends a yearly pap test for women ages 21 to 69. A pap test can detect abnormal cells in the cervix when still in the precancerous stage - when the abnormal cells are still on the outside of the cervix.

Getting tested is very important; six out of ten women with cervical cancer have not been tested within the past five years.

While all women should be tested regularly, there are factors that will increase the risk of cervical cancer. Those include: many sexual partners, early sexual activity, other sexually transmitted diseases, a weak immune system and cigarette smoking.

For women without insurance, it is still important to get tested regularly. For information on where you can get free or low cost pap tests, call the Division of Cancer Prevention and Control at 717-783-1457 or 877-PA-HEALTH.

Cervical cancer is serious, but when caught early can be treatable. Take time this month to get tested for cervical cancer and vaccinated against HPV.

Don't be stubborn, just get tested.

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