By Melissa DeRoche

Central Michigan District Health Department

OSCEOLA COUNTY — January is National Cervical Cancer Awareness Month, and the Central Michigan District Health Department wants to remind the community that cervical cancer is one of the most preventable cancers that affect women.

However, about 128 women in Michigan will still die from cervical cancer this year.

The American Cancer Society estimates that 12,900 women will be newly diagnosed with invasive cervical cancer in the U.S. in 2015, and 4,100 women will die of cervical cancer.

Cervical cancer usually develops slowly, beginning as simple abnormal cells. If left untreated, these cells can progress into cancer. About two out of every three cervical cancers are caused by certain strains of the Human Papilloma Virus. Vaccines have been shown to prevent the types of HPV that lead to cervical cancer. Currently there are two HPV vaccines, Cervarix and Gardasil, available for both boys and girls between the ages of 9 and 26. Both are available by calling your local health department branch office and making an appointment. Males should get the vaccine also, because they can carry the virus and infect women; leading to cervical cancer.

The Pap test is a specific screening test for cervical cancer and is not the same as a pelvic exam, although the Pap test is done in conjunction with a pelvic exam. A Pap test is a simple and effective exam that can find abnormal cervical cells. If abnormal cells are found, treatment can usually be done to remove these cells and stop them from turning into cervical cancer. Cervical cancer screenings are usually fast and easy. All women who have reached the age of 21 should have regular interval cervical cancer screening. Following recommended Pap smear screening guidelines can reduce a woman’s risk of cervical cancer.

Men and women should use the month of January to encourage partners and loved ones to schedule a cervical cancer screening appointment and talk to their health care provider about the HPV vaccine.

The Central Michigan District Health Department provides cervical cancer screenings to all women through its Family Planning and Breast and Cervical Cancer Control Navigation Programs. CMDHD, through the Breast and Cervical Cancer Control Navigation Program, provides free Pap tests and breast cancer screenings with mammograms to women aged 40 to 64 with limited income and little or no health insurance.

For more information on cancer screening services offered at CMDHD, contact the Osceola County branch office at (231) 832-5532.