The month of January is recognized as Cervical Cancer Awareness Month, and the Florida Department of Health in Marion County (DOH-Marion) is encouraging women in the community to get tested for this disease.
DOH-Marion states that regular screenings can help aid prevention and treatment of cervical cancer, which is vital since the disease may not cause symptoms early on.
In Marion County, the rate of cervical cancer diagnosis and related deaths exceeds the state as a whole, according to DOH-Marion. The local health department states that women in Marion County were diagnosed with cervical cancer at a rate that was 17% higher than the statewide total, based on diagnosis rates per 100,000 women.
In both 2020 and 2021, the cervical cancer-related death rate in Marion County nearly doubled that of the rest of Florida, according to DOH-Marion.
When it comes to testing for cervical cancer, Marion County is more closely aligned with the rest of the state. A Pap test is the primary means of screening for cervical cancer.
As of 2016, the most recent year for which state data is available, 47.1% of adult women in Marion County received a Pap test within the past year. The data showed that 48.4% of women across the rest of the state were tested for cervical cancer within the past year, according to DOH-Marion.
In 2016, Marion County was also closely aligned with the state as a whole when looking at adult women (ages 21 to 65) who had a Pap test within the past three years – 76.9% in Marion County compared to 78.8% for the rest of Florida.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that women between the ages of 21 and 65 get tested every three years, if their baseline test is normal.
The CDC notes that women over 65 may no longer need a Pap test if their past screenings have been normal for several years, if they have not had a cervical precancer in the past, or if they had their cervix removed in having a total hysterectomy for non-cancerous conditions.
For women who are uninsured, DOH-Marion participates in the Florida Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program, which reduces barriers to obtaining a cervical cancer screening. The screenings may be available for free or at a reduced cost for those who qualify.
To be eligible, women must be between the ages of 50 and 64, live in Marion County, report a household income at or below 200% of the federal poverty level, not have insurance, and agree to complete all recommended tests required for a cancer diagnosis within 60 days of an abnormal test result.
For more information about cervical cancer screenings, women should contact their primary health care provider or visit the Florida Department of Health in Marion County’s website.