By Kathy Warner
January is Cervical Health Awareness Month. Nearly 13,000 women in the United States are diagnosed with cervical cancer each year, and more than 4,100 die from the disease.
Even more alarming, research shows cervical cancer mortality rates have been underestimated in the U.S., with minority women being at a particularly higher risk.
That’s why WellCare associates, along with more than 100 other concerned South Carolinians, gathered at the statehouse on Jan. 18 to demonstrate support for cervical cancer survivors, while raising awareness about the disease.
The fact is cervical cancer is preventable. If detected early through screening, it can be treated successfully. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Human papillomavirus (HPV), which affects roughly 25 percent of Americans, is one of the predominant causes of cervical cancer. Getting the HPV vaccine can help lower one’s risk of developing cancer.
Symptoms of cervical cancer tend to not appear until the cancer has advanced, which is why it’s so critical for everyone to be familiar with the most up-to-date guidelines and recommendations for annual exams and HPV vaccinations.
It is recommended boys and girls receive their first three HPV vaccinations at the age of 11 or 12, but one can receive the vaccination up to age 26.The American Cancer Society also recommends that women begin cervical cancer screenings at age 21 by having a pap test every three years. Then, beginning at age 30, women should have a pap test combined with an HPV test every five years.
Through greater awareness, screenings and vaccinations, we can help catch this disease in its early stages and help prevent cervical cancer for all women.
Kathy Warner is WellCare’s state president, South Carolina. She has responsibility for WellCare’s Medicaid and Medicare Advantage businesses across the state and leads the company’s statewide quality and growth initiatives.