In the last 10 years, more than 900 Missouri women have died from cervical cancer. This January, during Cervical Health Awareness Month, Pike County Memorial Hospital (PCMH) wants to remind women in the community about the importance of the Pap test as a screening tool for cervical cancer/HPV and about vaccines that can further reduce the burden of this devastating disease.
“It’s important to remember that cervical cancer is a preventable disease– as long as it’s caught early enough,” said Debbie Beckman, PCMH Family Nurse Practitioner, who practices at Bowling Green Clinic.
PCMH would also like women to know that they may be eligible for free screening services through the Show Me Healthy Women program, which provides screening and diagnostic tests at no cost to women who qualify. Services are provided through the Bowling Green and Louisiana Clinics of Eastern Missouri Health Services, a service of Pike County Memorial Hospital.
To be eligible for free screenings through Show Me Healthy Women, women must meet the age and income requirements, which include being uninsured or underinsured and at or below 250 percent of the federal poverty level. For example, for a family of two, the annual income limit in Missouri is $30,260. This program also provides free mammograms to those who qualify. To determine if you or someone you know is eligible, call Ashley Ebbing at 573-560-5591.
While routine administration of Pap tests is the best means of detecting cervical cancer at an early stage, vaccines have the potential to protect women from the disease, by targeting cancer-causing types of the human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV, a virus transmitted through sexual contact, is the single known cause of cervical cancer.
Two forms of the virus, HPV 16 and HPV 18, account for more than 70 percent of all cervical cancer cases. Some medical experts believe that through a successful education, screening and vaccination program for women, we will have the potential to nearly eliminate cervical cancer in the U.S.