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January is Cervical Cancer Screening Month

Montefiore's HPV Vaccine and Cervical Cancer Prevention Clinic is helping to protect women from this potentially deadly disease

NEW YORK CITY, NY (January 9, 2009) -- It's the start of a new year, a time when many of us are reflecting on our health. For women, protection from the human papilloma virus, or HPV, a common cause of cervical cancer, should be high on the list.

January is Cervical Cancer Screening Month, a reminder for women everywhere to speak to their healthcare providers about screening for this potentially deadly disease. That message is especially important for women living in New York, which has the 4th highest rate of cervical cancer in country.

Since the introduction of the screening test known as the Pap smear in the 1940s, the death rate for cervical cancer has dropped by more than 70 percent. Studies now show that cervical cancer is usually caused by a common, sexually transmitted virus- human papilloma virus, or HPV. While more than 100 strains, or types, of HPV have been identified, only a few "high-risk" strains can lead, in rare cases, to cervical cancer.

The HPV Vaccine and Cervical Cancer prevention clinic at Montefiore Medical Center provides vaccination, education, and counseling for all women ages 19-26 in order to both reduce the spread of the sexually transmitted disease and the potential onset of cervical cancer.

"By age 50, at least 80 percent of American women will have contracted HPV. Hispanic and African-American women are twice as likely to develop the cancer, which is the sixth leading killer of women in the U.S.," said Mark Einstein, MD, director, Clinical Research, of Montefiore's Division of Gynecologic Oncology, Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology and Women's Health. "In most instances the body's immune system clears the infection, but the virus typically does not present symptoms, so women are often unaware that they are infected."  

The incidence of cervical cancer is higher in the Bronx than much of the state due to the fact that many Bronx women do not access the healthcare system for screening. On average the clinic vaccinates about 20-30 women per week. Montefiore as a whole administered 12,000 doses in 2007. That includes all age ranges (9-26).

"Few health issues rank higher in our communities than cancer prevention," said State Senator Jeff Klein (D-Bronx/Westchester). "In the United States, more than 300,000 women are diagnosed with precancerous lesions that require further treatment. While, the Bronx leads the city in instances of cervical cancer, we also have the only HPV Vaccine and Cervical Cancer prevention clinic to help protect women in a critical age range that need to be protected from this deadly disease."

"Our goal is to reach the young women who need the vaccine most and let them know that this service is available," Dr. Einstein said. "We want our patients to leave here vaccinated and better educated about HPV and the possible effects of this virus." 

"Many women ages 19-26, who are eligible to receive the vaccine, cannot get it from their providers, most of whom do not carry the vaccine," added Dr. Einstein.  "Additionally, 30% of women 19-26 are under-or uninsured and access healthcare only if they need it.  It is imperative that these women take part in this important preventative measure to protect them from cervical cancer.  Our center can help underinsured women get vaccinated."

The clinic, which is located at the Montefiore Medical Tower at 1695 Eastchester Road on the corner of Blondell Avenue, is open on Tuesday mornings from 9 am-12 noon and Wednesday afternoons from 1 pm-5 pm. To schedule an appointment for vaccination, women should call 718-405-8390. The vaccine can also be obtained for girls under 18 years and younger at Montefiore's Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine Clinics. 

Senator Klein added that New York has a statewide network of community-based breast and cervical screening partnerships to provide low-income, uninsured or under-served women with annual comprehensive screening exams and follow-up services. To learn more about program eligibility, Bronx residents can call the Bronx Healthy Woman Partnership at (718) 547-5064.

 

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