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Raising Awareness

Program can help some women get tested for cervical cancer

January 17, 2010
By RODNEY MINOR, The Leader-Herald

An old friend helped remind Suzanne Hagadorn just how important it is for women to get screened for cervical cancer.

Hagadorn, the program coordinator for the Cancer Services Program of Fulton and Montgomery Counties, said her friend contacted her via Facebook, informing Hagadorn she had been diagnosed with cervical cancer.

"It drove home the point to me personally, the importance of having the pap test done," Hagadorn said.

Article Photos

The Leader-Herald/Rodney Minor

The visitor entrance at St. Mary’s Hospital Memorial Campus in?Amsterdam is shown Thursday. The campus is the location of the Cancer?Services Program of Fulton and Montgomery?counties.

This month is Cervical Cancer Health Awareness Month. According to the American Cancer Society Web site, it expected more than 11,000 new cases of invasive cervical cancer - cancer that spread beyond the cervix - occurred in 2009. It estimated more than 4,000 women died from cervical cancer.

Hagadorn said the Cancer Services Program of Fulton and Montgomery Counties offers women ages 40 to 64 with no health insurance free pap testing.

"The first line of defense for women is to get tested," she said.

Margaret Brodie, St. Mary's Hospital's Cancer Services Program site coordinator for Schenectady, Fulton and Montgomery counties, said the pap test is the most proven way to detect cervical cancer.

The program uses the American Cancer Society's guidelines for who should be tested, which its Web site lists as:

All women should begin having the Pap test about 3 years after they start having sex, but no later than age 21.

The test should be done every year if the regular Pap test is used, or every 2 years if the liquid-based Pap test is used.

Beginning at age 30, many women who have had 3 normal test results in a row may get the Pap test every 2 to 3 years. Another option for women over 30 is to have a Pap test every 3 years plus the HPV DNA test.

Women who have certain risk factors (like HIV infection or weak immune systems) should get a Pap test every year.

Women 70 years of age or older who have had 3 or more normal Pap tests in a row (and no abnormal tests in the last 10 years) may choose to stop having the test. But women who have had cervical cancer or who have other risk factors should keep on having the test as long as they are in good health.

Women who have had a total hysterectomy also may choose to stop having the test unless the surgery was done as a treatment for cervical cancer or pre-cancer. Women who have had a simple hysterectomy should continue to follow the guidelines above.

Hagadorn said sometimes women think if they have a child, they no longer need to have the pap test. Actually, the ACS recommends women continue to follow its guidelines.

Brodie said the program also funds transportation for people who would not otherwise be able to get to the test.

People sometimes are afraid to have a test done to check for cancer, she said, because they are concerned about the cost. Some people would rather not know if something is wrong because they think they will not be able to afford to treat any problems, she said.

That is why people who are diagnosed with cancer, she said, are enrolled in a Medicaid cancer treatment program.

Risk factors

According to the ACS Web site - www.cancer.org - risk factors for cervical cancer include:

Human Papilloma Virus infection.

Smoking.

HIV infection.

Chlamydia infection.

A diet low in fruits and vegetables.

Family history of cervical cancer.

 
 

 

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