Women In Government Report Says States Making Progress in Cervical Cancer Prevention

A new report shows that states are making significant progress in the fight against cervical cancer, but still face dramatic racial disparities in cervical cancer incidence, mortality and screening rates, and a lack of access to care for low-income women. These shortfalls point to healthcare gaps that may prevent all women from benefiting from breakthrough new screening and prevention technologies. The findings are from “Partnering for Progress 2007: the ‘State’ of Cervical Cancer Prevention in America,” the third annual state-by-state comparison report released today by Women In Government, a non-profit, bi-partisan organization representing women state legislators.

The report looked at current data for each state on cervical cancer incidence and mortality rates; screening rates, including for low-income women; women’s access to screening using the most up-to-date technology, rates of uninsured women; and the legislative priority being put on this issue. Key findings in the report are:

*For the first time, a state — Minnesota — received a grade of Excellent
(with a score of 83%, or 15 out of 18 possible points).
*A majority of states and the District of Columbia saw a decrease in both
cervical cancer incidence and mortality.
*In the last year alone, more than 25 policy measures addressing cervical
cancer prevention were introduced in legislatures around the country.
*Just under half (49%) of the states experienced an increase in their rate
of uninsured women.
*In most states, incidence and mortality rates for Black and Hispanic
women are higher than for White women; screening continues to lag for
Hispanic women in some states and for Asian/Pacific Islander women and
Native American women throughout the country.

In June 2006, the FDA approved an HPV vaccine for girls and women aged 9 to 26. Studies show the vaccine to be 100% effective at preventing disease from the HPV types that account for 70% of all cervical cancers and 90% of genital warts. A second HPV vaccine, shown to be equally as effective against cervical cancer-causing HPV, is expected to be submitted to the FDA in 2007. The federal Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) has recommended that the HPV vaccine be given routinely to all 11- and 12-year-old girls and to other approved age groups at a clinician’s discretion. The vaccine is also included in the federal Vaccines for Children program, which provides immunization for uninsured and under-insured children.

Even with the HPV vaccine, screening will still be critical to protect women against cervical cancer caused by HPV types not covered by the vaccine, for women already exposed to HPV types targeted by the vaccine, and for women who do not receive the vaccine. The Pap test has helped to significantly reduce cervical cancer rates over the last 60 years. However, research shows that it is 51% to 85% accurate, depending upon the type of Pap test used. An FDA-approved HPV test is available and research shows that adding HPV testing to a Pap test in women aged 30 and older can increase a clinician’s ability to identify women needing early intervention to 100%.

After Minnesota, the top-performing states were: Illinois (78%) and then Alabama, Connecticut, Maine, North Carolina and Rhode Island, each with scores of 72%. Among the states that performed the best:

*At least 87% of age-appropriate women were screened for cervical cancer
in the past three years.
*At least 82% of women have health insurance, including Minnesota where
91% of women have health insurance.
*Their state Medicaid programs cover HPV testing along with a Pap test for
routine screening of women aged 30 and older.

Idaho received the lowest score (33%), followed by South Dakota and Utah, each with scores of 39%, and then the District of Columbia, Iowa, Mississippi and Tennessee, each with scores of 44%.

About Cervical Cancer
Worldwide, cervical cancer is the second leading cancer-killer of women, with almost a quarter-million deaths each year. In the U.S., the American Cancer Society estimated 9,710 women would be diagnosed with and more than 3,700 women would die of cervical cancer in 2006. According to the CDC, approximately 20 million people are currently infected with HPV, with 6.2 million new infections occurring annually and approximately 80% of sexually active women will be infected with HPV by age 50. For 90% 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 .

For a copy of “Partnering for Progress 2007: the ‘State’ of Cervical Cancer Prevention in America,” please visit www.womeningovernment.org/prevention .

Source: Women in Government

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