January is Cervical Health Awareness Month.
Part of ensuring cervical health involves regular screening for cancer. Cervical cancer occurs when abnormal cells on the cervix grow out of control. Each year, approximately 12,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer in the United States.
It used to be one of the most common causes of cancer death for American women. It used to be—that’s not something we usually hear about cancer. But cervical cancer can often be successfully treated when it’s found early. And with early detection and effective screening, the mortality rate has decreased by more than 50 percent in the last 30 years.
The Bottom Line: Cervical Cancer is Preventable in Most Cases Because of Effective Screening Tests
Unfortunately, not enough women get screened. Only 60 percent of women 21–64 years of age who were enrolled in Medicaid HMO plans, were screened for cervical cancer in 2014. That means the remaining 40 percent put themselves at potential risk.
The responsibility for screening is not women’s alone. Health plans are aware of the guidelines and should do more to make their patients aware of them, too. And what better time than Cervical Health Awareness Month?
By making more patients aware of screening guidelines, everyone can do their part in saving lives. Screenings prompt early detection; early detection means early treatment and a better chance of cure.
All women deserve that chance.
Amy Maciejowski is a Program Manager for State Affairs at NCQA. She supports NCQA’s work with state legislators and regulators. Amy holds a master’s degree in Political Communications from American University.