January is cervical cancer awareness month. In 2011, nearly 13,000 women throughout the country are diagnosed with cervical cancer and more than 4,000 lives were lost as a result, according to the National Cancer Institute (NCI).
According to the National Cervical Cancer Coalition, vaccines can protect women from developing cervical cancer by targeting cancer-causing types of human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV, a virus transmitted through sexual contact, is the only known cause of cervical cancer.
Routine Pap tests are the best method to detect cervical cancer at an early stage by detecting significant abnormal cell changes that may arise before cancer develops. Women who have never undergone a Pap test or who have not had a Pap test in the past five years face a greater risk of developing an invasive type of cervical cancer. Most medical experts agree that women between the ages of 21 (or younger, if they are sexually active) and 70 should be screened every two to three years. Despite the effectiveness of Pap tests in detecting cervical cancer and preventing deaths, the most recent NCI statistics from 2005 indicate that more than 20 percent of women 18 years of age and older had not received a Pap test within the past three years.
Some women with cervical cancer are unable to work due to the progression of their condition or due to ongoing cancer treatment. If cervical cancer prevents a woman from working for at least 12 months, or is expected to last at least 12 months, she may be eligible for social security disability benefits, such as Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). SSDI provides benefits, including:
- Regular monthly income
- Medical benefits, including Medicare Part A (hospital benefits) and Part B (medical benefits) which includes cervical, vaginal and breast cancer screenings once every 24 months, or once every 12 months for women at high risk, and for women of child-bearing age who have had an exam that indicated cancer or other abnormalities in the past three years
- Prescription drug coverage through Medicare Part D
- Possible COBRA extension of an additional 11 months
- Long-term disability benefits through your private long-term disability insurance.
- Benefits for dependents
- Return-to-work incentives