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States Improve, But Are Still Missing Opportunities to Prevent Cervical Cancer, According to New Report Released Today.

Women In Government Assessment Calls for More Screening, Better Access to Advanced Technologies

WASHINGTON, Jan. 18 /PRNewswire/ -- Women In Government today released findings from its second annual nationwide report on states' efforts to eliminate cervical cancer -- a disease that should be preventable with widespread access to advanced and appropriate screening technology. The report, "Progress Report 2006: The 'State' of Cervical Cancer Prevention in America," found that, while many states have improved since a year ago, they are still missing critical opportunities to prevent cervical cancer, based on screening rates, rates of uninsured women, coverage of advanced screening technology in public insurance programs and states' legislative focus on this issue.
 Major findings in the report show:

 -- 20 states and the District of Columbia improved their grades and only
 two states' grades declined since 2005.
 -- Still, no state received an "excellent" grade.
 -- Minnesota received the highest score of 81 percent (13 out of
 16 measured points), followed by Illinois, Maryland, North Carolina and
 Rhode Island, each with 75 percent.
 -- Tennessee received the lowest score (38 percent), followed by
 California, Idaho, Kentucky, South Dakota and West Virginia (each with
 44 percent).




"Our country has made significant progress in the effort to eliminate cervical cancer. However, our findings still show that too many women remain unscreened or under-screened for cervical cancer and too many screening programs rely on the Pap test alone, while an FDA-approved test for the human papillomavirus (HPV), the cause of cervical cancer, is available and can better identify women needing intervention," said Susan Crosby, president of Women In Government, a non-profit, bi-partisan association representing elected women state officials. "We urge state legislators, public health officials, advocates and others to step up their efforts to prevent cervical cancer by ensuring that all women have access to the most advanced and appropriate technologies available -- regardless of their socioeconomic status."

Women In Government's report also found that among the five states that fared best:
 -- At least 87 percent of all age-appropriate women had been screened for
 cervical cancer in the past three years.
 -- In four of the top five states, at least 84 percent of women have
 health insurance, including Minnesota where 92 percent of women have
 health insurance.
 -- Their state Medicaid programs cover HPV testing along with a Pap for
 routine screening of women age 30 and older.
 -- They have introduced or passed measures targeting insurance coverage of
 advanced cervical cancer screening technologies and/or establishing
 task forces to implement the most recent knowledge, expertise and
 technologies in fighting cervical cancer.




"Experts now know that cervical cancer is caused by the human papillomavirus, or HPV. With the development of preventive vaccines and more sophisticated diagnostic screening, such as FDA-approved HPV testing, we are on the threshold of an incredible era in which cervical cancer could be eliminated through better and more accessible preventive health care. We must seize these tremendous opportunities. Thus, we will continue to monitor state progress in future reports as part of our plan to eliminate this preventable disease," said Ms. Crosby.

Research shows that the Pap test's ability to detect cervical cancer or its early signs ranges from 51 to 85 percent. The FDA recently approved a new screening test for HPV infections, which, when used in conjunction with a Pap in women age 30 and older, increases the accuracy of the Pap to almost 100 percent. Leading medical organizations, including the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, have recently updated their guidelines to include HPV testing in cervical cancer screening. If the FDA approves an HPV vaccine and it were widely used, it could contribute significantly to the reduction of cervical cancer worldwide.

"Unfortunately, while 45 states and the District of Columbia cover HPV testing through Medicaid when medically necessary, many physicians do not routinely offer it," said Marie Savard, M.D., a nationally-known internist and women's health advocate. "Therefore, it is important to inform doctors and women about HPV, and to ensure access to HPV testing and to the HPV vaccine when it becomes available."

The state-by-state assessment is the latest step in Women In Government's fight against cervical cancer, begun in January 2004, when the organization launched its Challenge to Eliminate Cervical Cancer Campaign. The Campaign engages state legislators nationwide in policy and awareness efforts to help eliminate cervical cancer. To date, 42 states have introduced legislation or resolutions targeting cervical cancer elimination and 36 states have enacted such measures.

More about Cervical Cancer

Worldwide, cervical cancer kills almost a quarter-million women each year, according to the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO). In the United States, cervical cancer rates have decreased significantly over the last 60 years due to widespread use of the Pap test. Still, the American Cancer Society estimates that 10,370 new cases in U.S. women will be diagnosed this year.

Approximately 20 million people are currently infected with HPV, with 6.2 million new infections occurring annually, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Approximately 80 percent of sexually active women will be infected with HPV by age 50, the CDC reports. For 90 percent of infected women, the virus is naturally cleared by the body and becomes undetectable within two years. However, persistent infection with "high-risk" types of HPV is the main risk factor for cervical cancer. These types of HPV, which sometimes stay dormant in the body for years, can cause cell changes on the cervix that can ultimately become cancerous.

About Women In Government

Women In Government is a national, 501(c)(3), non-profit, bi-partisan organization of women state legislators providing leadership opportunities, networking, expert forums and educational resources to address and resolve complex public policy issues. For more information, visit http://www.womeningovernment.org/.
 For a copy of the full report or for more information on
 Women In Government's "Challenge to Eliminate Cervical Cancer Campaign,"
 Visit http://www.womeningovernment.org/prevention.

 CONTACT:
 Tracy Morris
 +1-650-473-1272
 tracy@morrismarcom.com

 Kathryn Guccione
 +1-202-333-0825 x240
 kguccione@womeningovernment.org



CONTACT: Tracy Morris, +1-650-473-1272, or tracy@morrismarcom.com, for Women In Government; or Kathryn Guccione of Women In Government, +1-202-333-0825, ext. 240, or kguccione@womeningovernment.org

Web site: http://www.womeningovernment.org/prevention

Web site: http://www.womeningovernment.org/
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Publication:PR Newswire
Date:Jan 18, 2006
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