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January 3, 2022Updated: 01.10.23

January is Cervical Health Awareness Month

According to the American Cancer Society (Cervical Cancer Statistics | Key Statistics for Cervical Cancer, 2022):

  • Cervical cancer used to be the most common cause of cancer death for women in the United States.
  • An estimated 14,100 women will be diagnosed with cervical cancer and of those women, almost 4,280 of them will die of the disease.
  • Cervical cancer is more commonly diagnosed in women ages 35-44. However, over 20% of cervical cancer cases occur in women over the age of 65.
  • Cervical cancer is not frequently found in women age 20 or younger and in women who have been receiving regular cervical cancer screenings prior to age 65.
  • Many women have no idea they can still develop cervical cancer as they grow older.

With early screening, diagnosis, and treatment, cervical cancer can be treatable. Increased use of Pap testing and screening has resulted in a decrease in the number of deaths from cervical cancer. Cervical Cancer Awareness Month is an opportune time to raise awareness to the importance of prevention, screening, early detection, treatment, and follow-up care of cervical cancer.

Risk factors
There are several risk factors that can increase a woman's chance of developing cervical cancer including human papillomavirus (HPV) infection, family history, sexual history, chlamydia infection, weakened immune system, long term use of oral contraceptives, smoking, prenatal history, poor diet, diethylstilbestrol (DES) exposure, and lower economic status. It is important to note that not all women with these risk factors will develop cervical cancer.

Signs and Symptoms
Oftentimes women with pre-cancer and early stages of cervical cancer do not present with any signs or symptoms. Most women do not know that they have pre-cancer or cervical cancer until they receive an abnormal Pap test. Signs and symptoms usually appear once the cervical cancer starts to grow and spread into surrounding tissue.

Screening and How is it diagnosed
The Medicare-covered preventive screening tests used for cervical cancer are the cervical cancer screening with human papillomavirus (HPV) tests, screening Pap tests, and screening pelvic examination. If abnormalities are detected during screening, further testing will be completed to determine the presence of pre-cancer or cervical cancer.

The treatment for cervical cancer is determined by two factors: the type of cervical cancer present and the stage of the cancer. Treatment options include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, immunotherapy, and targeted drug therapy.

You can promote cervical health and assist your patients with prevention of cervical cancer.

  • Encourage your patients to schedule annual wellness visits and screenings.
    • Medicare covers screening Pap tests and screening pelvic examinations. Discuss with your patients the importance of screening for cervical cancer and encourage them to schedule these Medicare-covered preventive services.
  • Discuss with your patients about cervical health including risk factors for cervical cancer.
  • Educate your patients about the importance of staying active and regularly exercising.
  • Educate your patients about eating a well-balanced diet. A healthy diet should:
    • Include plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains
    • Be low in salt, fat, cholesterol, and excess sugar
    • Limit (or avoid) the amount of red meats and highly processed foods consumed
  • If your patients are smokers, encourage them to quit smoking. Educate your patients the link between smoking and risk for cervical cancer.
  • Discuss risks and benefits of oral contraceptives if your patient is currently using them.
  • Discuss risks and benefits of complementary and alternative medicine as treatment modalities for cervical cancer.
  • Educate your patients about different methods to reduce their exposure to HPV.
  • If applicable, discuss the risks and benefits of receiving the HPV vaccine.

To learn more about Medicare-covered services, visit CMS Preventive ServicesExternal Website:



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