The start of a new year offers a chance for new opportunities, and perhaps even new commitments.
This fresh beginning should serve as a reminder for Mid-Ohio Valley women to be tested for cancer, and specifically cervical cancer, as January is Cervical Health Awareness Month.
Too often women go unscreened. They often include older women, who may believe that with their reproductive years behind them, they're beyond the reach of cervical cancer. Other highly unscreened groups include the uninsured; ethnic minorities, especially Latino women, African-Americans and Asian-Americans; and poor women in rural areas.
American Cancer Society officials estimate about 12,710 new cases of invasive cervical cancer will be diagnosed in the United States this year and approximately 4,290 women will die from the disease.
It's proven that while cervical cancer is one of the most common cancers worldwide, it is also one of the most preventable and treatable.
The five-year survival rate, or percentage of women who survive at least five years after the cancer is detected, for all stages of cervical cancer is 70 percent. When detected at an early stage, the five-year survival rate for women with invasive cervical cancer is 91 percent, according to the American Cancer Society.
Along those lines, officials with the Food and Drug Administration have developed advances to enhance the sensitivity of the Pap test, and new guidelines have been developed concerning the frequency of cervical cancer screenings. There's even been promising results with the new FDA-approved vaccine against human papillomavirus, the virus responsible for most cases of cervical cancer.
Early testing, especially with cervical cancer, is the best defense, as the disease usually shows no symptoms or signs.
A woman usually develops symptoms when the cancer has become invasive and invades nearby tissue, and when this happens, the most common symptom is abnormal vaginal bleeding.
Statistics show that cervical cancer once was one of the most common causes of cancer death for American women. But, between 1955 and 1992, the cervical cancer death rate declined by almost 70 percent due to the increased use of the Pap test.
Cancer, including cervical cancer, remains a big killer in the Ohio. And although our area has been plagued with many forms of the disease through the years, early detection is by far the best defense.
Start this year with a clean slate and please, make time to be tested.