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Emory raises cervical cancer awareness

SNELLVILLE — January, National Cervical Cancer Awareness Month, may be over, but Emory Eastside Medical Center officials believe it is never too late to raise cervical cancer awareness.

In 2009, there were about 340 cases of cervical cancer in Georgia. While fatal cases here are rare, according to the American Cancer Society, Dr. Sabrina Falkner, Emory OB/GYN physician, said it's important to know and understand the risk factors associated with the disease.

Those risk factors, she said, include having multiple sex partners, sex at an early age, a sex partner who has had multiple partners and an HPV (Human Papillomarivirus) infection.

"Cervical cancer deaths are almost completely preventable," she said. "Precancerous stages are detected during routine Pap tests and are very treatable with modern medical advances."

According to the American Cancer Society, between 60 and 80 percent of women who are diagnosed with invasive cervical cancer have not had a Pap test within five years.

Health officials are especially concerned about urging black women to have Pap tests, as they are significantly more at-risk of getting cervical cancer and have a higher mortality rate.

The Pap test, officials said, which detects early precancerous cells, has lowered cases of cervical cancer in the United States by 75 percent.

The Georgia Department of Health recommends the following screening activities:

• An annual pelvic exam and regular Pap test for all women starting about three years after first sexual activity or no later than 21 years old.

• Starting at 30, women who have had three or more normal Pap tests in a row may get screened every two to three years.

• Women over 70 who have had three or more normal Pap tests and no abnormal Pap test result in 10 years may stop being tested.

• Women who have had a total hysterectomy may choose to stop having Pap tests unless the hysterectomy was treatment for cervical cancer or pre-cancer.

• If you have risk factors, such as diethylstilbestrol (DES) exposure before birth, HIV infection, weakened immune system or chronic steroid use, continue to have annual Pap tests.