An average of 150 cases of invasive cervical cancer are diagnosed annually in Colorado, and 2 out of every 100,000 women in Colorado will die from cervical cancer, according to the Colorado Cancer Coalition. The Telluride Regional Medical Center hopes to use Cervical Health Awareness Month as a chance to raise awareness and drive more local women to protect themselves from HPV (human papillomavirus) and cervical cancer.

HPV is a very common infection that spreads through sexual activity. It’s also a major cause of cervical cancer.

The medical center offers HPV vaccines and Pap exams as part of a patient’s regular annual exam, and now—thanks to the addition of Dr. Christine Mahoney who joined the primary care team last year— additional expanded women’s services including colposcopy, endometrial biopsies, IUDs and osteopathic manipulation.

“We’re encouraging women to take charge of their health in 2017 by making sure they are up-to-date on their Pap test,” says Dr. Mahoney.

A Pap test detects irregularities that can lead to cervical cancer. “Prevention is our goal,” she added.

Cervical cancer is most often caused by certain types of the HPV. According to the CDC, approximately 79 million people are currently infected with HPV, and 14 million persons are newly infected each year in the United States.

“No woman should die of cervical cancer,” said Dr. Mahoney.

According to the American Cancer Society, if found early, cervical cancer is one of the most successfully treatable cancers. In the United States, the cervical cancer death rate declined by more than 50% over the last 30 years. This is thought to be mainly due to the effectiveness of screening with the Pap test.

“And yet, not all women are getting screened,” said Dr. Sharon Grundy, medical director of primary care at Telluride’s medical center.

Women without health insurance and women who have recently immigrated are less likely to have cervical cancer screening.

“It’s important that our entire community know that we provide health care here, regardless of anyone’s ability to pay,” said Dr. Grundy.

“We have payment plans, sliding scales and sometimes even grant money to help make healthcare affordable.”

Another part of overall cervical health is raising awareness about the HPV vaccine, which can prevent the majority of cervical cancers diagnoses.

The HPV vaccine is recommended at the age of 11 or 12 for both boys and girls by the American Academy of Pediatrics. The HPV vaccine works best if given before a person becomes sexually active and can be given between the age of 9 through 26 for certain individuals.

Dr. Grundy recommends women begin Pap testing at the age of 21 with follow up every 3 years for a normal Pap result. To schedule an annual exam, or for more information about women’s services, call the Telluride Regional Medical Center at 728.3848.