Wellness briefs

Cervical Cancer Awareness Month

BISMARCK January is National Cervical Cancer Awareness Month and the North Dakota Department of Health is reminding women of the importance of regular Pap tests, according to Barb Steiner, Women’s Way program clinical coordinator.

Although cervical cancer is highly preventable through screening and other preventive measures, about 4,200 women die from the disease in the United States each year. Half of all cervical cancers occur in women who have never had a Pap test.

“Having a Pap test regularly is the key to preventing cervical cancer,” said Steiner. “A Pap test can detect the abnormal changes in the cervical cells before they become cancerous. If cancer does occur, the Pap test can find it early when it is easier to treat.”

Women still need to continue getting regular Pap tests after they have stopped having children. According to the American Cancer Society, cervical cancer tends to occur in midlife and most cases are found in women younger than 50. However, the risk of developing cervical cancer is still present for women older than 50, so it is important for women to continue to have Pap tests until their healthcare provider recommends that a Pap test is no longer needed.

While routine Pap tests are the best means of detecting cervical cancer at an early stage, vaccines also have the potential to protect young women and men from the disease. Two vaccines are no available to help protect against human papilloma virus types 16 and 18, the two types of HPV that cause most cervical cancers. However, women who have been vaccinated still should get regular Pap tests.

To learn more about Women’s Way or to see if you are eligible, call 1-800-44-WOMEN, or visit (www.ndhealth.gov/womensway).

More information about cervical cancer, HPV, and the HPV vaccination can be found by visiting (www.cancer.org) or (www.cdc.gov/hpv). For more information about Cervical Cancer Awareness Month, contact Barb Steiner, North Dakota Department of Health, at 328-2333.

Jill Hambek

Birth Defects Prevention Month

BISMARCK Governor Jack Dalrymple has proclaimed January 2013 as Birth Defects Prevention Month in North Dakota. The North Dakota Department of Health is joining the National Birth Defects Prevention Network to inform women about ways to prevent birth defects, the leading cause of infant deaths in the United States.

“Every 4 1/2 minutes, a baby is born in the U.S. with a birth defect,” said Devaiah Muccatira, of the Department of Health’s Division of Children’s Special Health Services. “We want to raise awareness among health-care professionals and the public about the frequency with which birth defects occur in the U.S. and the steps that can be taken to prevent them. The risk for many types of birth defects can be reduced through healthy lifestyle choices and medical interventions before and during pregnancy.”

There are many different kinds of birth defects including congenital heart defects, cleft lip or palate, defects of brain and spine, and a variety of genetic syndromes such as Down syndrome. Some have only a minor and brief effect on a baby’s health, and some have life-threatening and or lifelong effects.

More than 120,000 babies born with a birth defect – approximately one in 33 live births – are reported each year in the U.S. Birth defects are the most common cause of death in infants and the second most common cause of death in children ages 1 to 4. In North Dakota, about one in six infant deaths are the result of birth defects. Public awareness, expert medical care, accurate and early diagnosis, and social support systems are all essential for optimal prevention and treatment of these conditions.

The NBDPN is working with health-care professionals and public health agencies around the country to encourage prevention and awareness of birth defects among more than 60 million women of childbearing age in the U.S. Further information about NBDPN can be found at (www.NBDPN.org).

For more information about Birth Defects Prevention Month, contact Devaiah Muccatira, North Dakota Department of Health, at 328-4963 or by email at dmuccatira@nd.gov.

Jill Hambek