Cervical cancer in Chicago occurs 39% more often and has a 60% higher death rate than the national average, according to Equal Hope Initiative, a women’s health-equity nonprofit. Latina women have the highest cervical cancer rate in Chicago.
Cervical cancer, which the human papillomavirus (HPV) causes, is up to 93% preventable, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Primary prevention, such as the HPV vaccine, and secondary prevention, with cancer-screenings like pap tests, could greatly reduce cervical cancer, says Nita K. Lee, MD, MPH, who specializes in gynecologic oncology at the University of Chicago Comprehensive Cancer Center.
The CDC recommends that children age 11 to 12 get two doses of the HPV vaccine. Everyone through age 26 should get the vaccine if they haven’t been fully vaccinated before.
Additionally, U.S. Preventive Services Task Force guidelines say women age 21 to 29 should have a pap test every three years, while older women can get a pap test every three years or an HPV test every five years. The guidelines are under review for an update.
Because the cancer is slow-growing, an annual test is not necessary for most women. Equal Hope offers free services to eligible people who are uninsured or underinsured.