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Alabama tied for most cervical cancer deaths in country

According to the Center for Disease Control, cervical cancer is killing more women in Alabama and Mississippi than any other state.

The American Cancer Institute estimates 110 women died from cervical cancer in 2019.

27 percent of children age 11 to 15 have had both of the recommended doses of the HPV vaccine, which can protect against certain types of HPV that lead to cancer, compared to 49 percent nationally.

Dr. Jennifer Young Pierce, head of cancer control and prevention and a professor of interdisciplinary clinical oncology at the Mitchell Cancer Institute at USA, said many types of cervical cancers are preventable if patients complete all three rounds of the HPV vaccine as a child and are curable if caught early. Pierce advises patients to get Pap tests and HPV tests at their yearly gynecological appointment.

“I always say to parents ‘if you want grandchildren, you want this vaccine,’” Pierce said. “Because that’s how you protect your children in the future, but also for girls in particular. It’s how you protect their fertility because most of the treatments for cervical cancer take away a woman’s fertility.”

HPV vaccination rates among children 11 to 15 in Alabama range from 10 percent in Clarke County to 1 percent in Bullock County.

“The number of people who get a Pap test in Alabama is the same as the national average,” Pierce said. “We have lower rates of follow up on those abnormals [Pap test results.]”

Pierce recommends getting a Pap test every three to five years for women ages 21 to 64 and a HPV test starting at age 30.