This week’s spotlight highlights KCHD’s Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program  

 The Knox County Health Department (KCHD) Women’s Health Clinic provides family planning services, pregnancy testing, annual exams, women’s health education, and breast and cervical cancer screening for those who meet program guidelines. If women have postponed any screenings or exams over the last year, KCHD recommends resuming them, especially routine cancer screenings, as cancer was the second leading cause of death in Knox County, according to KCHD’s 2019 Community Health Assessment.

“Screenings are vital components of preventive health care,” said KCHD social counselor Reedie McWilliams. “They are just as important as healthy diets and routine exercise.”

KCHD’s Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program offers FREE health services including breast and cervical cancer screenings to individuals who meet income guidelines, do not have insurance or whose insurance does not cover this service. More information is available on KCHD’s women’s health webpage.

Health experts recommend that women start receiving cervical cancer screenings starting at age 21, regardless of sexual activity, receiving one at least every three years if the results are normal. Cervical cancer screenings can also include HPV testing as certain types of HPV increase the risk of developing cervical cancer. In fact, it’s one of the most common cancers found in women in the U.S. according to the American Cancer Society; however, it is nearly 100 percent curable if found early. Additionally, the HPV vaccine provides safe, effective and long-lasting protection against cancers caused by HPV.

Starting at age 40, women are encouraged to receive annual screening mammograms. If they have a family history of breast cancer, they should start screenings earlier. More than 42,000 women died from breast cancer in 2020 in the United States, including 950 from Tennessee, per the National Cancer Institute.

According to the American Cancer Society, the mortality rate has declined for both diseases since the early 2000s. Experts determined this progress reflects earlier detection through screening, availability of HPV vaccines and increased awareness of symptoms, which is why it is vital to take advantage of local programs to get screened and take preventive measures.