Cervical cancer is one of the most commonly diagnosed cancers among women worldwide.  

It's an alarming reality Chattanooga-Hamilton County Health Department officials say too many women face in Tennessee; sometimes without knowing. 

According to the latest (2013) CDC data on cervical cancer, 11,955 women in the US were diagnosed with cervical cancer that year while 4,217 died. The same data show in Tennessee that approximately nine per 100,000 people were newly diagnosed that year and about three per 100,000 died.

Tennessee’s death rate is higher than the national rate and is comparable to national death rates for oral, skin, or stomach cancers.

But officials say cervical cancer can be prevented with regular screenings. 

"Our program we like to get people that haven't had a pap smear in say five to ten years, we encourage to get those people in," said Dora Coker, Registered Nurse and Coordinator of the Tennessee Breast and Cervical Screening Program (TBCSP). 

Coker explained the most common cause of cervical cancer is Human Papillomavirus (HPV), the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI). 
It's why she recommends girls and boys, between 11 and 12 years old get the HPV vaccine. 

"It does prevent cervical cancer and you wouldn't want your child to get it then they find out later in life that they get cervical cancer and found out that it could've been prevented."

Other risk factors for cervical cancer include:

  •          Smoking tobacco.

  •          Having HIV (the virus that causes AIDS) or another condition that makes it hard for your body to fight off health problems.

  •          Using birth control pills for a long time (five or more years).

  •          Having given birth to three or more children.

  •          Having several sexual partners.

But Coker said there's no reason any woman should ever have to face that reality. 

"No woman in Tennessee should die from cervical cancer because it is treatable."

The health department does provide free cervical and breast cancer screening for eligible women. For more details, click here or call 209-8009. If you are not eligible for the free screenings, you may still use the Health Department as your screening service provider according to criteria.