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Planned Parenthood boosts awareness about preventing cervical cancer

January is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month.

As part of a sustained effort to raise awareness of public health issues in the region, Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota (PPMNS) is working to educate women about cervical cancer prevention and detection.

Cervical cancer has historically been one of the most common causes of cancer death for women in the United States. It is now one of the most preventable gynecological cancers, largely due to effective screening strategies and new vaccinations that can help prevent the leading cause of this type of cancer - the Human Papillomavirus, or HPV.

More than half of all sexually active people will acquire HPV at some point in their lives. By the age of 50, more than 80 percent of women will have been infected.

The HPV vaccine is widely hailed as a critical advance in the field of women's health, the vaccine is effective in preventing infections with HPV types 16 and 18, two high-risk strains that cause 70 percent of all cervical cancers.

Last year, PPMNS released a report that contextualizes cervical cancer in Minnesota.

Go to to download the report and see a PPMNS video about the importance of regular screening and access to reproductive health care, as discussed by a Planned Parenthood nurse practitioner.

"The promise of the HPV vaccine is profound. Within one generation, we have the potential to provide our daughters and granddaughters with an unprecedented level of protection from cervical cancer," said PPMNS President and CEO Sarah Stoesz.

A report from researchers at Washington University School of Medicine shows that only about 1 in 3 young women have received the HPV vaccine and a Center for Disease Control (CDC) survey supports this finding. In 2008, only 37 percent of teens had received the vaccine. The percentage is even lower in Minnesota, with only 33.6 percent of young women getting the vaccine.

In a report released by the CDC, there is more troubling news. According to the study, the vast majority of pediatricians and family physicians reported offering the HPV vaccine, but not at the CDC recommended age of 11 to 12 years old. Parents also were more likely to refuse the vaccine for younger patients.

Planned Parenthood works throughout the region to help prevent and reduce the incidence of cervical cancer. In the past two years alone, it's offered more than 33,000 routine Pap screenings that can help detect cellular changes before they become cancerous. PPMNS provided more than 2,000 women with advanced gynecological care, including colposcopy and Loop Electrosurgical Excision Procedure (LEEP) that can further detect and treat abnormal cervical cells. Moreover, Planned Parenthood offers the Gardasil vaccine, which prevents four of the most common types of HPV, including those high-risk types linked to cervical cancer. PPMNS has administered the HPV vaccine to more than 5000 women and men across the region to help reduce the risk of acquiring HPV-related cancers.

"Every effort must be made to ensure brighter, healthier futures for women in Minnesota," said Stoesz.