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January is Cervical Health Awareness Month

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FROM: Lezlie Burkley, Foundation Director
Heart of the Rockies Regional Medical Center Foundation
1000 Rush Drive Salida, CO 81201
Email: Tel.: (719) 530-2218

January is Cervical Health Awareness Month

Access preventative screenings through the Women’s Wellness Connection program

SALIDA, Colo.— Cervical cancer, once one of the primary types of cancer afflicting women in the U.S., has seen a decline in rates over the past decade due to preventative screening. As a result, the American Cancer Society (ACS) has updated its guidelines regarding when women should begin regular screening tests.

The updated ACS guidelines recommend that women begin regular cervical cancer screenings with an HPV test starting at age 21, a few years later than previously recommended. Subsequent screenings should be performed every five years through age 65, with a negative HPV test result. Subsequent testing should be based on the patient’s personal results and the testing strategy adopted by the patient and their health provider.

"Cervical cancer is a preventable cancer, which we have the potential to eradicate through screening tests and then also with the HPV vaccine," says Dr. Tri Dinh, a Mayo Clinic gynecologic oncologist.

Over 90 percent of cervical cancer is caused by HPV, and more than 80 million people are estimated to have been exposed to the virus. An HPV test can determine exposure, while a Pap test identifies abnormal cells on the cervix.

"It's important to talk with your health care provider about options,” says Dr. Dinh. “Regardless of which screening approach you select, choose one and follow it."

The HPV vaccine is a great preventive measure to combat cervical cancer. The majority of people become exposed to HPV in their late teens or early 20s, which is why early immunization is such an important preventative step. The vaccine is approved for boys and girls beginning at age nine.

Through the Women’s Wellness Connection program, Heart of the Rockies Regional Medical Center (HRRMC) offers free cervical cancer screening/Pap tests and mammograms to qualifying women. To be eligible, women must be between 21 and 64 years old, living within a specific income level, be uninsured or underinsured, and reside in Chaffee, Saguache, Custer, western Fremont, western Park or Lake Counties.

“The Women’s Wellness Connection program creates awareness and access to preventative health and cancer screenings,” explained Melanie Critelli, WWC Community Health Worker. “Our service region is geographically isolated, which can create barriers to women accessing annual care. Insurance coverage and cost can create additional obstacles. Our program works to support women financially and emotionally to ensure they access these critical appointments.”

More information about program guidelines and enrollment are available at

To talk with someone directly about the enrollment process, contact WWC Community Health Worker Melanie Critelli at or 719-530-1065.