01-09-2020 Columns

Cervical Cancer Awareness

In recognition of January as Cervical Health Awareness Month, the Berrien County Health Department is reminding all women to stay current on their cervical cancer screening to improve their health, and to prevent cervical cancer in the future. In 2019, an estimated 360 Michigan women were newly diagnosed with invasive cervical cancer, and in 2019, approximately 120 Michigan women died from this disease.

About 70 percent of cervical cancer in the United States could be prevented through human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination. Three doses of HPV vaccine are recommended for girls and boys at 11-12 years of age, but the vaccine can be given up through age 26. The HPV vaccine is safe, effective, and produces better immunity when given at the recommended age of 11-12 years.

The simple, affordable, and easy-to-administer screening test to detect cervical cancer – the Pap test – has been widely available for 70 years. Still, more than half of cervical cancer deaths are seen in women who have either never had a Pap test, or have not had testing in more than five years. Along with lack of screening, the most significant risk factor for cervical cancer is HPV infection – 99 percent of cervical cancers are caused by HPV.

Screening for cervical cancer is recommended to begin at age 21. Through the Healthy Michigan Plan, women’s preventive health care – such as screenings for cervical cancer, mammograms, prenatal care, immunizations, and other services – is covered without co-pays. Pap tests are available at the BCHD Sexual Health Clinics, and for women ages 40-64, Pap testing is accessible through the Breast and Cervical Cancer Control Program (BCCCP).

There are many programs that provide free vaccines for children and uninsured individuals. For more information regarding HPV and cervical cancer visit www.michigan.gov/hpv or www.bchdmi.org.

Beware of Social Security scams

There’s a widespread telephone scam involving callers claiming they’re from Social Security. The caller ID may even show a government number. These callers may tell you there’s a problem with your Social Security number. They may also threaten to arrest you unless you pay a fine or fee using gift cards, pre-paid debit cards, a wire transfer, or cash. That call is not from us!

If you receive a suspicious call from someone alleging to be from Social Security, please: Hang up right away. Never give your personal information, money, or retail gift cards and report the scam at oig.ssa.gov/ to Social Security’s law enforcement team at the Office of the Inspector General.

Social Security will not: Threaten you; tell you that your Social Security Number has been suspended; call you to demand an immediate payment; ask you for credit or debit card numbers over the phone; require a specific means of debt repayment, like a prepaid debit card, a retail gift card, or cash; demand that you pay a Social Security debt without the ability to appeal the amount you owe; promise a Social Security benefit approval, or increase, in exchange for information or money; or request personal or financial information through email, text messages, or social media.

Social Security will: Sometimes call you to confirm you filed for a claim or to discuss other ongoing business you have with them; mail you a letter if there is a problem; mail you a letter if you need to submit payments that will have detailed information about options to make payments and the ability to appeal the decision; and use emails, text messages, and social media to provide general information (not personal or financial information) on its programs and services if you have signed up to receive these messages.

Please share this information with your family and friends.

Vonda Van Til is the Public Affairs Specialist for West Michigan. You can write her c/o Social Security Administration, 3045 Knapp NE, Grand Rapids MI 49525 or via email at vonda.vantil@ssa.gov.