Women in Mississippi diagnosed with cervical cancer are nearly twice as likely to die from it than the average American woman.

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Mississippi Women Much More Likely to Die from Cervical Cancer

By Daniel Cherry | Published 18 Jan 2012 07:47pm | comments

A woman in Mississippi diagnosed with cervical cancer is nearly twice as likely to die from it than the average American woman. MPB's Daniel Cherry reports how medical professionals say lives can be saved with more testing and vaccinations.

Karen Marble, from Clinton, says like most other young women she started getting regular checkups from her gynecologist in her teens...then one day she heard she had an abnormal pap smear.

"When I was in my early 20s I was diagnosed with Cervical Dysplasia."

It's a fairly common problem for women in their 20s, but if left untreated, can turn into cervical cancer.

"I was very thankful that I went to the doctor, that I get my pap smear every year because if I wouldn't have gone I would never have known. It's not something that you feel or can tell that you have. So if they wouldn't have done the pap smear, I wouldn't have found out about it until it was too late."

The Mississippi Department of Health estimates only 140 women in the state will be diagnosed with cervical cancer in 2012, but the mortality rate of those women...especially African American women, is much higher than average. Dr. Mildred Ridgeway is a gynecologist at the University of Mississippi Women's Specialty Care Clinic. She says almost all of these cases are entirely preventable.

"If you get regular exams with regular pap smears, the likelihood that you're going to catch it before it becomes a problem is very high."

But many Mississippi women don't get the recommended checkups so when cancer shows up, its often too late. A sexually transmitted virus called HPV causes the cancer, but as of 2008, only 16 percent of Mississippi girls had been vaccinated against the virus. That's something Ridgeway says the state needs to fix.

"Often times you hear of Mississippi being like a 3rd world country and in this sense it is. We do probably the worst job in the country as far as vaccinating patients against HPV. So part of my mission is to try to education people around the state to know they have access to the HPV vaccine."

Doctors say many low-income girls can get free HPV vaccines through the Vaccines for Children program.

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