The Times West Virginian

January 10, 2014

Screening key in fighting cervical cancer

Number of state cases ranks among highest in nation

By Kristen Talerico
Times West Virginian

FAIRMONT — January is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month.

And officials with the Marion County Health Department and the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources are reminding citizens about the seriousness of the disease.

Approximately 100 women in West Virginia will be diagnosed with cervical cancer this year, DHHR cabinet secretary Karen L. Bowling noted in a press release.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), half of all cervical cancers occur in women rarely or never screened for cancer, and another 10-20 percent of cancers develop among women who were screened but did not receive adequate follow-up care.

The CDC states that West Virginia ranks among the highest in the nation for cases of cervical cancer; other states that were in the top ranking were Delaware, Florida, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Texas, as well as Washington, D.C.

Shelly Dusic, health information specialist with the West Virginia Breast and Cervical Cancer Screening Program, is one woman trying to help ensure West Virginia decreases its number of cervical cancer cases.

She said the WVBCCSP works to lower the number of cases by helping to provide low-income, uninsured or under-insured women free or low-cost Pap tests.

The program was established in 1991, Dusic said.

“The best part of my job is every time I go out into the community and meet someone that the WVBCCSP helped, I always keep tissues handy because when you meet these people who have been through the program and gotten help, it is a tremendous amount of gratitude,” Dusic said.

Workers for the program “take a lot of pride in the fact that ladies can receive such good care,” Dusic added.

She said Marion County has two clinics that offer the WVBCCSP: the Marion County Heath Department and John Manchin Sr. Clinic.

Donna Riffle, nursing director at the Marion County Health Department, said some general guidelines to qualify for the program include having a family size of one woman making less than $1,862 a month, or an annual income of $22,340; or a family size of two making less than $2,522 and annual income of less than $30,260.

She said these are only a few of the guidelines; a more detailed list is available online at www.wvdhhr.org/bccsp.

Riffle said local women can also get more information about the program at the heath department’s website or by mentioning WVBCCSP at their next visit.

The health department has attended different activities in the community like Women’s Health Awareness Day and enrolled people in the program, Riffle said.

She said the health department does a weekly screening on Mondays (by appointment) and during a clinic from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. She said the screening is incorporated into the family planning program.

Officials say women should start getting screened for cervical cancer at the age of 21.

“Women should be screened every two years for cervical cancer by a Pap test,” Riffle said.

“The Gardasil vaccination is given on Wednesdays at the health department. We can give that to anyone ages 13-18,” she added.

“When cervical cancer is found early, it is highly treatable and associated with long-term survival and good quality of life,” Bowling said. “Now that we have HPV vaccines available, we are able to prevent cervical cancer before it occurs.”

The American Cancer Society reports that the number of cervical cancer deaths decreased 70 percent between 1955 and 1992, and continues to decline each year due to increased use of the Pap test.

Email Kristen Talerico at ktalerico@timeswv.com or follow her on Twitter @KTalericoTWV.