By Harriet Dial

January is National Cervical Health Awareness Month. The WV Breast and Cervical Cancer Screening Program (BCCSP) joins organizations throughout West Virginia encouraging women to get a Pap test.

Cervical cancer is one of the most common causes of cancer worldwide, and one of the most preventable and treatable. Approximately 45 West Virginia women die of cervical cancer each year, ranking West Virginia third in the nation for deaths due to cervical cancer. This number could greatly be reduced if West Virginia women would get regular Pap test.

There are two ways to prevent this disease. One is by avoiding the high risk behaviors: Women who have many sexual partners have a greater change of getting HPV which can lead to cervical cancer; and women who smoke are about twice as likely as non-smokers to get cervical cancer.

The second way to prevent cancer of the cervix is to have regular Pap tests. The test can detect HPV infection and pre-cancers. Treatment of these problems can stop cervical cancer before it fully develops. All women should have yearly Pap tests starting at age 18 or the age when they start having sex. Women who are past menopause still need to have regular Pap tests. However, a woman should talk with their doctor or nurse to determine how often she should get a Pap test.

For those who meet age and income guidelines, the BCCSP provides free Pap and Breast Exams. Call your local Cancer Information person in your region, Harriet Dial, at the new Parkersburg Regional Office, 304-422-1515 or 304-481-9922 to see if you meet the qualifications for these free exams and for a referral to a clinic near you. Or you may call of the many clinics who provide this service. The following clinics are some of the providers of this program:

Minnie Hamilton Health Care, 394-9244

Ritchie County Primary Care, 643-4005

Harrisville Medical Center, 643-2957

Pennsboro Medical Center, 659-2986

Roane General Medical Clinic, 927-6822

Roane Family Medical Clinic, 927-1495