January is cervical health awareness month, and doctors are urging woman to get tested. YNN's Antoinette DelBel has more on the importance of a Pap test and where woman can go for screenings.
NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. — Cervical cancer is the third most common gynecological cancer in the nation, according to Dr. Daniel Burns, a gynecologist at Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center.
With many people not even realizing they have it, Dr. Burns stresses the importance of getting screened.
"If every woman was to go for her Pap smears as scheduled, we would eradicate cervical cancer," said Dr. Burns.
Dr. Burns said the recommendations for Pap tests have changed within the past few years. He said women should start screenings at the age of 21, and if it is normal, can wait up to three years for the next one.
Women who have an abnormal Pap however, should be seen annually.
"(Women) 30 years old to 59 years old, it's recommended you have a Pap smear with HPV testing," said Dr. Burns.
Doctor Burns said 95 percent of cervical cancer is caused by the human papillomavirus, or HPV. He said HPV affects at at least 50 percent of sexually active Americans and advises everyone to get vaccinated.
"There are two different vaccines on the market by different companies," he said. "Those are recommended to receive starting at the age of 10."
"Once you have a cancer, and if it's something that there are very few or no symptoms, the cancer is most likely to spread," said Cancer Services Program Coordinator Claudia Kurtzworth. "What we want to do is make sure the cancer doesn't spread to any more of the internal organs and cause major issues."
The Cancer Services Program in Niagara County is part of a statewide program that offers screenings for those who are uninsured and are in the older demographic.
"We offer free breast, cervical and colorectal screening for individuals 40 through 64 (years of age) who have no health insurance," said Kurtzworth.
Working closely with dozens of other clinics throughout the county, Kurtzworth said the program has helped more than 400 men and women get screening and diagnostic services.
"If indeed a breast, cervical or colorectal cancer is found, we then provide a case management with them, where we can help them pay for any costs if a cancer is diagnosed," she said.
And besides regular Pap tests, woman can also take other preventative measures.
Dr. Burns said, "Safe sex with the use of condoms will certainly minimize the risk of obtaining the cervical caner vaccine and limiting the number of partners."