By Trenessa K. Jones, DSL
Best Chance Network Director
Division of Cancer Prevention & Control
Cervical Health Awareness Month is an opportunity to raise awareness about how women can protect themselves from cervical cancer, which was once one of the most common causes of cancer death for U.S. women.
While more work remains to prevent and respond to cervical cancer, fortunately the death rate has gone down with the increased use of screening tests.
You may qualify for free screening
The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control’s (DHEC) Best Chance Network (BCN), along with its many partners, work to educate the public on the importance of cervical cancer screenings and help those who cannot afford to get screened.
BCN, which is administered by DHEC’s Cancer Prevention and Control Division, offers breast and cervical cancer screenings at no cost to women who have no health insurance or only have hospitalization insurance, who are between the ages of 30 and 64, and who meet certain program and income guidelines. The BCN program partners with more than 450 health care providers in the state to coordinate cancer screenings for these under-served women. The program also offers diagnosis and treatment, data tracking, public education and more.
The work of BCN
Since its inception in 1991, BCN has provided more than 225,000 breast cancer and cervical cancer screenings for eligible women, assisting nearly 11,000 this past year alone.
According to the National Cancer Institute/Centers for Disease Control and Prevention State Cancer Profile, an average of 190 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer a year, while about 72 women die from the disease every year in South Carolina. Thanks to an increase in routine Pap smears, cervical cancer rates have dropped drastically in the last 60 years, but South Carolina still ranks 14th in the nation for new cases of cervical cancer and 11th in the nation for cervical cancer deaths.
Cervical cancer symptoms may not be present in early stages. That’s why routine screenings are so important; when caught and treated early, cervical cancer is highly curable.
“No woman in South Carolina should die from this highly preventable cancer. Regular screenings and follow up care are critical and if found early and treated it can be cured,” said Virginie Daguise, Ph.D., director of DHEC’s Bureau of Community Health and Chronic Disease Prevention.
Visit the DHEC website for more information on BCN.