receives Inland Northwest Foundation Grant
St. Mary’s Hospital and Clinics has received a $5,000 grant from the Inland Northwest Community Foundation, formerly Foundation Northwest. The monies will be used to provide free cervical cancer screenings to uninsured or underinsured female residents of Idaho County.
“Regular pap smears are an excellent way of screening for cervical cancer,” said Shari Kuther, RN, SMH Clinics Director of Nursing. “The simple screening can identify irregular cell growth before it becomes cancerous. Women often postpone their annual female exams for financial or other reasons, but this funding from the Inland Northwest Community Foundation will help remove the financial barrier.”
The funds will be used in conjunction with the Komen for the Cure grant received earlier which will provide free female wellness exams for 150 women and 50 free mammograms. Pathologist’s Regional Laboratory and Phoenix Radiology in Lewiston are offering lower rates to SMHC for women seen through the grants.
Regular pap tests should begin three years after onset of sexual activity, but no later than age 21 and every one to two years, thereafter. The patient should consult her health care provider to determine the frequency of cervical cancer screenings and pelvic exams.
According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), human papillomaviruses (HPV) are common viruses that can cause warts. There are more than 100 types of HPV. Most are harmless, but about 30 types put a person at risk for cancer. These types affect the genitals and are transmitted via sexual contact with an infected partner. Low-risk HPV can cause genital warts. High risk HPV can lead to cancers of the cervix, vulva, and other areas in women. HPV infections may have no symptoms. Pap smears can detect changes in the cervix that might lead to cancer.
The NIH reports that the FDA approved the use of Gardasil, a vaccine developed to prevent cervical cancer, precancerous lesions and genital warts due to various types of HPV. The Food and Drug Administration licensed the vaccine for use in girls and women aged 9 to 26 years. The Centers for Disease Control says the vaccine protects against four HPV types, which together cause 70% of cervical cancers and 90% of genital warts.
“The goal of the INWF grant is to educate women about cervical cancer and encourage them to learn more about risk factors, screening, prevention and follow up,” said Kuther. “Providing free pap smears, female exams and mammograms will, hopefully, help women prioritize their own health care. All too often women think what they don’t know won’t hurt them, but when it comes to health, an ounce of prevention is truly worth a pound of cure. When the grant funds run out we won’t be able to provide the exams at no cost, but hopefully women will continue to understand the importance of regular female exams.”
The Inland Northwest Community Foundation serves twenty counties throughout Eastern Washington and North Idaho. Founded in 1974, they manage more than 200 funds valued at approximately $63 million. INCF has awarded $31.5 million in grants and scholarships throughout the region.
SMHC will be advertising the free female exams, cervical cancer screenings and mammograms in the near future. To qualify women must be residents of Idaho County between the ages of 18 and 49, be uninsured or underinsured and it must be at least a year since their last wellness exam.