Pap test is first line of defense

January is Cervical Health Awareness Month, and women across Colorado are encouraged to start the year by talking with their health care providers about scheduling a pap test. A pap test is the first line of defense against cervical cancer. When it's found early, more than 92 percent of women survive cervical cancer

"When you find out can be just as important was what you find out," said a Women's Wellness Connection spokesperson. "Cervical cancer usually doesn't have any signs or symptoms, so a routine pap test will tell you if you have a problem."

Under health care reform, insurance plans are required to cover women's preventive health services, like pap tests, without charging co-pays. The Women's Wellness Connection offers free cervical cancer screenings and any necessary follow-up treatments to Colorado women between the ages of 40 and 64 who have little or no health insurance and meet income requirements. To find out details, call the local hotline at 970-356-5059 or visit www.womenswellnessconnection.org.

"I have such peace of mind now that I got screened," said one local participant. "I realized that to take care of my family, I had to take care of me first."

Every year in the U.S., about 13,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer, and about 4,000 women die of the disease. Latinas and African-American women are at higher risk for developing cervical cancer. A routine pap test can prevent most of these deaths - screening save lives.