ERIE COUNTY, NY – January is National Cervical Health Awareness Month, and the Erie County Cancer Services Program is offering this reminder about regular screening and vaccination as tools to detect and prevent cervical cancer.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 90% of cervical cancer is caused by human papilloma virus (HPV). Early stages of cervical cancer and HPV infections do not always show symptoms. “Available screening tests can identify precancerous cells, which might become cervical cancer if not treated appropriately,” said Commissioner of Health Dr. Gale Burstein. “Our Cancer Services Program connects eligible women age 40 and older with screenings, and with any other diagnostic testing needed after those screenings.”

“Women often put their health concerns last, but cervical cancer screening is not something that should be delayed,” said Program Manager Michelle Wysocki, “Our outreach team takes calls from women nearly every day to access cervical cancer screenings; cost should not be a barrier to these routine screening tests or to an accurate diagnosis.” Call (716) 858-7376 for more information, or visit

Cervical cancer screening with a Pap test or a combination of a Pap test and high-risk human papilloma virus (hrHPV) test are routine procedures done in a standard ob/gyn or primary care office visit. Routine screening can detect pre-cancerous changes or early cancer in the cervix that can be more easily treated. Pap tests are recommended for most women through age 65 as a routine part of health care.

Erie County residents under age 40 may access cervical cancer screening directly through the Erie County Family Planning Clinic at 608 William Street in Buffalo. Appointments are encouraged and walk-ins welcomed. The Family Planning Clinic accepts most insurances, and people who are uninsured or underinsured will be screened for a NYS program to help pay for services. No one is turned away for an inability to pay. For any questions or to schedule an appointment, call (716) 858-2779.

All women are at risk of developing cervical cancer, though it occurs most often in women over 30 years of age. Human papillomavirus (HPV), a vaccine preventable disease, is the number one cervical cancer risk factor and can be detected in 99.7 percent of cervical cancers. Women who smoke are about twice as likely to develop cervical cancer compared to non-smokers. Other risk factors include having HIV or another condition that makes it hard to fight off health problems, using birth control pills for a long time, or having given birth to three or more children.

The HPV vaccine promotes cervical health with protection against types of the HPV that cause the majority of cervical cancers. This vaccine has been widely available in the United States since 2006. HPV is known to cause cervical, oral and anal cancers. By adulthood, most people have had an exposure to HPV, and the HPV vaccine works best when given before an HPV exposure. That is why HPV vaccination is recommended for male and female preteens ages 11-12 years, but can be given starting at age 9. It is also recommended for everyone through age 26, if they are not yet vaccinated. HPV vaccination prevents new HPV infections, but does not treat existing infections or diseases.

Individuals over the age of 26 should talk to their doctor about the risks and benefits of HPV vaccination.