01/12/2024 by Kari Perlewitz
January is National Cervical Screening Month, which is something we care a whole lot about here at North Country HealthCare. It’s the perfect time to raise awareness about the importance of regular screenings in the prevention and early detection of cervical cancer. In this post, we want to share some important tips so you can prioritize your health and we’ll also share some information about our Well Woman Health Check Program!
Cervical cancer is a type of cancer that develops in the lower part of the uterus. What makes this type of cancer particularly concerning is its tendency to progress silently, often without noticeable symptoms until it reaches more advanced stages. Regular screenings play a pivotal role in identifying abnormalities in the cervix early before they evolve into cancer.
During your cervical screening, your healthcare provider will collect a sample and screen it for Human Papillomavirus (HPV). HPV is a common group of viruses that are transmitted through intimate skin-to-skin contact, and it is currently the leading cause of cervical cancer. In fact, more than 9 out of every 10 cases of cervical cancer are caused by HPV according to the CDC.
HPV infects cells on the cervix, causing changes that have the potential to progress to precancerous lesions and, eventually, invasive cancer (if left untreated). In 2006, a vaccine for HPV came out and it has been very effective at protecting against the most common high-risk strains. But even if you’ve been vaccinated against HPV, it’s still extremely important to get regular cervical cancer screenings to catch any potential issues early.
If you’ve never had a cervical screening or it’s been a while since you’ve had one, you might be feeling some uncertainty or even anxiety. The good news is that these screenings are typically quick, straightforward, and performed in a routine medical setting.
During your screening, you will be asked to undress and put on a medical gown. You will lay on an examination table with your feet up in stirrups. Your healthcare provider will gently insert a speculum, which will allow them to see into the vaginal canal. After a short visual exam, they will use a long swab to collect a small sample of cells from the cervix. You may feel some pressure during this process but for most people, it is not painful.
After your exam, the sample that was collected is sent to a lab to be tested. This test checks for any abnormalities and it also checks for the presence of Human Papillomavirus (HPV). Your provider will follow up with you if they need to schedule a follow-up appointment. If not, you’ll just be asked to return for your annual wellness exam!
The Well Woman HealthCheck Program from North County HealthCare is designed to help low-income, uninsured, and underinsured women gain access to age-appropriate breast and cervical cancer screenings. This program is funded through the Arizona Department of Health Services with a grant from the Center for Disease Control (CDC).
One exciting aspect of this program is our Mobile Mammogram Unit, which offers convenient free mammograms to those who qualify. When you make your appointment, you can see if a provider is also available to do the cervical screening. Depending on availability and location, it may be possible to get both screenings done on the same day.
To find out when the Mobile Mammogram Unit is going to be near you, call or email your local clinic:
Apache, Gila, and Navajo Counties (Round Valley, Show Low, Payson, Winslow, and Holbrook):
928.532.6954 | WHPnavapachegila@nchcaz.org
Coconino County (Flagstaff, Williams, Grand Canyon):
928.522.9404 | WWHPcoconino@nchcaz.org
Mohave County (Bullhead, Kingman, Lake Havasu):
928.219.3352 | WWHPmohave@nchcaz.org
We are more than happy to help you determine your eligibility and then find a date and time slot that works for your schedule. Or, if you want to check your own eligibility for the Well Woman HealthCheck Program (including the services provided by the Mobile Mammogram Unit) you can click here.
We hope we were able to highlight the importance of regular cervical screenings, not just during National Cervical Screening Month but throughout the year. Together, we can make an impact in the fight against cervical cancer and ensure the well-being of women in our communities and beyond. If you have questions about the Well Woman HealthCheck program or our Mobile Mammogram Unit, feel free to reach out to the clinic location nearest you!
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