Isles' cervical cancer efforts rated 'good'
A "good" rating for Hawaii in a national report assessing states' efforts to fight cervical cancer isn't good enough, a state legislator said yesterday.
"I'd like to see it wiped out in the decade, and we know it can be done," said Rep. Barbara Marumoto (R, Waialae Iki-Diamond Head).
Hawaii scored 61 percent out of 100 percent in the third annual report, "Partnering for Progress 2007: The 'State' of Cervical Cancer Prevention in America," issued yesterday by Women in Government, a nonprofit, bipartisan organization of female state legislators.
Minnesota is the first state to receive an "excellent" grade with a score of 83 percent.
Marumoto, member of the Women in Government Task Force on Cervical Cancer, said Hawaii's score is slightly better than last year's 56 percent, but that more must be done to protect women from the disease.
She said the Women's Caucus in the Legislature is introducing a bill to give funding to the state Health Department to conduct an awareness campaign on cervical cancer.
Among findings of the national report: Hawaii's incidence rate of cervical cancer is 8.8 per 100,000 women, higher than last year, but the mortality rate is slightly lower than last year at 2.3 per 100,000 women.
The report said 83.76 percent of Hawaii women have been screened for cervical cancer in the past three years and 11 percent of Isle women don't have health insurance.
It notes that the Medicaid program covers testing for the human papillomavirus, which causes cervical cancer, as well as a Pap test in routine screening of women age 30 and older.
With new technologies such as an FDA-approved HPV vaccine and HPV test for screening, "we have a real opportunity to eliminate this disease," Rep. Marilyn Lee (D, Mililani-Mililani Mauka), leader of the Legislature's Women's Caucus, said in a news release.
The federal Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommends giving the vaccine routinely to all 11- and 12-year-old girls, and to other age groups at a doctor's discretion.
"It's based on trying to get them before they're exposed to the virus," said Dr. Brenda Hernandez, director of the Hawaii Tumor Registry operated by the Cancer Research Center of Hawaii and state Health Department.
But even if the vaccine were widely used throughout Hawaii and elsewhere, she pointed out, changes won't be seen in cervical cancer rates for 10 to 20 years.
"That's the time it takes for a person to develop cervical cancer," she said. "Some people may expect to see a change in the next couple years. It's not going to happen.
"The main thing to get across to women is even if they're vaccinated, they still need to get Pap smears," Hernandez emphasized. "That is the way early cervical cancers can be detected."
Marumoto and Lee said they will work with their colleagues in the Legislature and other concerned parties to step up the campaign against cervical cancer.
Lee wants "to ensure that all women are educated about and have access to such technologies, regardless of their socioeconomic status," she said. "Thus, we can help ensure that no more women in Hawaii die of this disease."
Sen. Rosalyn Baker (D, Kapalua-Makena) late last year convened a meeting on cervical cancer, piggybacking on the Women's Caucus, Marumoto said. All stakeholders were there and agreed an awareness campaign is needed, she said.