Student Health Center offers cervical cancer prevention

Cervical cancer will affect one 1 in every 147 women, according to the National Cancer Institute.

This means of the 9,170 female students enrolled at SIU in 2011, at least 62 may be diagnosed.

January is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month as a reminder to students and community members  to stay up to date with recommended health tests.

Cervical cancer has many risk factors, but is usually caused by the human papillomavirus, which affects both males and females.

The Student Health Center provides service to students, including Pap smears.

Knowing when to get a Pap test often requires consultation between the student and their health care provider, said Jodi Robertson, director of nurses for Student Health Services.

The human papillomavirus goes hand-in-hand with cervical cancer, she said. Within three years of beginning sexual activity or turning 21, screening for HPV is the first step and an immunization called Gardasil is recommended, she said.

Gardasil gives you immunity to the four high-risk types of HPV that cause cervical cancer, Robertson said. HPV is highly contagious and is generally carried by males until transmitted through sexual activity, she said.

Within the last year, males have been recommended for HPV vaccination, too.

“I think they realized that although women are the ones at risk for cervical cancer, males are transmitting the virus,” Robertson said. “If they make an effort to stop the virus with the males as well, that would make sense.”

Gardasil shots are available at the Student Health Center.

Jim Hunsaker, insurance administrator at the Student Health Center, said students can seek care regardless of their insurance. The access is the same for all students at the Student Health Center, just six dollars per visit including the test, he said.

The university can provide the all-inclusive service because of a mandatory fee every student pays, he said.

The two fees students initially pay are the student insurance fee and the student health fee, said Hunsaker. The only refundable fee is the insurance fee, which can be refunded if a student has comparable insurance coverage, he said.

“I think the insurance requirement the university has is to protect the students who may have to drop out due to health care cost,” said Hunsaker. “The university does a great job of making sure you have that coverage in one form or the other.”

Kelly Kuyawa, a sophomore from New Lenox studying exercise science, said the provided access to the Student Health Center makes it easier and more affordable to seek health care.

“If I was sick and had to pay more or even wait a long time for an appointment at an office, I know I would never go,” she said.

While busy schedule make it hard for some students to make it to get regular checkups, many of the cervical cancer risk factors apply to college-age adults.

According to the American Cancer Society, aside from an HPV infection which is contracted from sexual activity, other risk factors for cervical cancer include smoking, weakened immune system, chlamydia infection, poor diet, multiple partners, full-term pregnancy before age 17, oral contraceptives, and lack of adequate health services like the Pap smear test.

The importance of getting a Pap test regularly is important to catch cancer early, Robertson said.

“If caught early, cervical cancer is very treatable with certain procedures,” she said. “If you don’t get a Pap or have any idea there are abnormalities, it can lead to hysterectomy, ovarian cancer and other multiple organ cancers.”

The Gardasil vaccine is a series of three injections during a period of six months and there is an additional fee at the Student Health Center, said Robertson. But the vaccine is incredibly beneficial, she said.

The health industry has come a long way during the years with cervical screening, but it’s catching those signs early enough that treatment can be beneficial, and that’s a personal responsibility, Robertson said.

“It is a slower growing cancer, but it’s still cancer,” she said.

 

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tblanchette

About Tiffany Blanchette

Senior at SIUC majoring in photojournalism and zoology. Can be easily reached at tblanchette@dailyegyptian.com or 618-536-3311 ext. 254.

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