Women In Government: In the New HPV Vaccine Era, What Women Need to Know About Cervical Cancer Prevention

WASHINGTON, Sept. 21 /PRNewswire/ -- September is Gynecologic Cancer Awareness Month and Women In Government, a non-profit, bi-partisan organization of women state legislators, advocates that cervical cancer can be the first cancer we eliminate -- provided women are armed with accurate information about the disease and have access to advanced and appropriate preventive technologies.

"The new FDA-approved vaccine against the human papillomavirus, or HPV -- the cause of cervical cancer -- offers a critical new tool in fighting this disease," said Susan Crosby, president of Women In Government. "Screening, though, is still extremely important for all women."

An HPV vaccine was recently approved for girls and young women aged 9 through 26. A federal advisory panel subsequently voted to recommend its routine use in girls aged 11 and 12 and, as appropriate, for the other approved age groups. The vaccine has been shown in clinical trials to be 100 percent effective at preventing disease from the two types of HPV that are responsible for approximately 70 percent of all cervical cancers, as well as in targeting the two HPV types that cause 90 percent of genital warts. Another HPV vaccine is in development and expected to be submitted to the FDA later this year.

Screening is still critical, though, to reach those women who are too old for or who do not receive the HPV vaccine, as well as to protect against disease from the HPV types not covered in the vaccine.

"All girls and young women aged 9-26 should get immunized with the HPV vaccine. Even with the HPV vaccine, however, all women still need to get screened regularly with a Pap test. And, for women aged 30 and older, adding an HPV test offers the highest screening protection," said Dr. J. Thomas Cox, an ob/gyn at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Although, the Pap test has significantly helped to reduce cervical cancer rates, research shows its ability to detect the early signs of cervical cancer range from 51-85 percent, depending upon the type of Pap test used. An FDA-approved test for HPV is available and research shows that adding an HPV test to a Pap test in women aged 30 and older can increase a clinician's ability to identify women needing early intervention to 100 percent.

Women In Government is working to make cervical cancer the first cancer we can eliminate by mobilizing legislators to tackle this issue through education and policy initiatives in the states. Since the organization launched the "Challenge to Eliminate Cervical Cancer Campaign" in 2004, 45 states have introduced bills or resolutions targeting cervical cancer prevention.

"Cervical cancer can be our first victory in the war on cancer," said Ms. Crosby. "By ensuring that women are educated about this disease and the virus that causes it, and that they have access to preventive technologies, regardless of socioeconomic status, we can ensure that no more women die of this preventable disease."

About Cervical Cancer

Worldwide, cervical cancer is the second leading cancer-killer of women, with almost a quarter-million deaths each year. In the United States, the American Cancer Society estimates 9,710 women will be diagnosed with and more than 3,700 women will die of cervical cancer in 2006. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 20 million people are currently infected with HPV, with 6.2 million new infections occurring annually and approximately 80 percent of sexually active women will be infected with HPV by age 50. For 90 percent of infected women, the virus is naturally cleared by the body and becomes undetectable within two years. However, persistent infection with "high-risk" types of HPV can cause cell changes that, untreated, can lead to cervical cancer.

About Women In Government

Women In Government is a national, 501(c)(3), non-profit, bi-partisan organization of women state legislators providing leadership opportunities, networking, expert forums and educational resources to address and resolve complex public policy issues. For more information, visit www.womeningovernment.org .

    CONTACT:  Kathryn Guccione
              202-333-0825 x240

              Tracy Morris

Source: Women In Government

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