Make time to test for cancer

It’s a fresh, new year – a chance for new opportunities.

Given that, we ask area residents to remember their health in 2013, and, more specifically, be aware of the signs of cancer.

January is Cervical Health Awareness Month, and given the high incident rate of this cancer in Ohio Valley women, we ask that all women place being tested for this cancer high among priorities.

American Cancer Society officials are reporting that between 60 and 80 women with newly diagnosed invasive cervical cancer have not had a Pap smear in as many as five years, and, unfortunately, some may have never had one.

One of the unscreened groups includes 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 estimated about 12,170 new cases of invasive cervical cancer will be diagnosed in the United States this year and approximately 4,220 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.

Cancer, including cervical cancer, remains a big killer in the Mid-Ohio Valley. 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.