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Planned Parenthood Columbia Willamette opened its newest and largest health center in East Multnomah County at 14601 S.E. Division St.

UDALLThis Cervical Health Awareness Month and every month, Planned Parenthood Columbia Willamette is here to remind you that the new year is a good time to check in with your healthcare provider to see if you're due for a cervical cancer screening. Cervical cancer screenings are a critical part of staying healthy, even during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Cervical cancer is caused by certain types of HPV, or human papillomavirus, the most common sexually transmitted infection. In most cases, HPV is harmless and goes away on its own — but high-risk HPV can lead to cervical cancer. There is no cure for HPV, but a vaccine is available that can help protect against several high-risk types of HPV.

Cervical cancer — once the leading cause of cancer deaths for women in the United States — is now one of the most preventable cancers. As many as 93 percent of cases could be avoided through screening and vaccination. With early detection, the five-year survival rate is 92 percent.

Access to regular Pap tests — the screening that detects abnormal cells that could turn into cancer — and HPV vaccinations can help you stay healthy and safe. And that's why screenings are so crucial — they're a gamechanger for your future.

The earlier cervical cancer is found and treated, the better. Each year, more than 12,000 people in the United States are diagnosed with cervical cancer and about 4,000 people die from it. More than half of these people were either never screened or hadn't been screened in the past five years.

Thanks to the Affordable Care Act's preventive health benefits, more people have access to cervical cancer screenings and other preventive care without copays or out-of-pocket expenses. Regardless of your health insurance status, affordable care is always available at Planned Parenthood health centers, where more than 255,000 cervical cancer screenings are performed each year.

In June, PPCW opened our newest and largest health center in East Multnomah County to help meet urgent needs for increased access to essential health care. The Elsie H. Hillman East Portland Health Center, located at 14601 SE Division St., is proud to provide lifesaving Pap tests and other sexual and reproductive services because health care is a human right — especially in the midst of a pandemic.

Planned Parenthood plays a vital role in screening for cancer. Last year, we provided more than half a million cancer screenings nationwide — including 4,729 Pap tests at PPCW health centers in Oregon and Southwest Washington.

We know that cancer screenings are especially critical for communities of color that experience higher mortality rates due to structural racism and medical mistreatment. Since 1980, deaths and rates of cervical cancer have declined significantly for all women except for Latinas, who are 40 percent more likely to be diagnosed with and 20 percent more likely to die from cervical cancer compared to non-Hispanic white women.

Our patients' sexual and reproductive health care can't wait, especially now. You can rely on Planned Parenthood — via telehealth or in person, with or without insurance — for caring and expert information and health care with as few barriers as possible.

Anne Udall serves as President and CEO of Planned Parenthood Columbia Willamette. To make an appointment visit PPCW.org.


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