Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Protecting Older Women Against Cervical Cancer

By Susan Scanlan

Much discussion recently has focused on a new vaccine that helps protect girls and young women against cervical cancer. The vaccine wards off the virus – the human papillomavirus, or HPV – that causes the disease. This medical breakthrough, however, does not protect against all cancer-causing HPV types and is only FDA-approved for girls and women aged 9-26. Therefore, it certainly won’t help women aged 65 and older, who account for nearly 20 percent of all new cervical cancer cases in the United States and more than 35 percent of all deaths from the disease.

Another technology -- a DNA test for HPV -- can better protect these women. And now, a proposal before Congress will ensure that older women get access to this test by requiring Medicare to pay for it.


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