Happy New Year!
January marks Cervical Cancer Awareness Month. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) tells us that cervical cancer is curable with routine screening and medical follow up. Cervical cancer screening is now so efficient that the CDC reports that no one should ever die from cervical cancer.
So…why are we talking about this?
Cervical cancer is a preventable cancer, but many of our friends and family members fail to schedule their routine cervical cancer screening with their medical provider. The CDC reports that over the last five years, over 8 million women ages 21 to 65 have failed to get screened!
Almost 2 million of these women failed to do so because they either did not have a primary care provider (PCP) or were uninsured. It’s not a surprise, then, that more than half of all documented cervical cancers are found in women who have not been screened within the last 5 years.
How can I make sure I don’t get cervical cancer?
All women ages 21 to 65 should have a yearly women’s wellness exam with scheduled Papanicolaou (Pap) and a Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) tests as directed by their medical provider. A medical provider or primary care provider (PCP) can be your designated nurse practitioner, physician or a gynecologist. Your PCP performs a Pap and HPV test in order to prepare cells taken from your cervix to send to a lab to test for cervical cancers.
But is it painful?
There is some mild pressure during the pelvic exam and Pap test, but it should not be painful. Not sure of what a Pap test is? Find out more through Medline’s interactive tutorial on how your PCP performs a Pap test.
Where can I get screened?
Your PCP is someone who is recognized or assigned by your medical insurance – the good news is this could be your very own nurse practitioner! He or she can perform your Pap test and will refer you to a gynecologist (if necessary). Preparation for your exam is fairly simple; the National Cervical Cancer Coalition has some great tips.
Is there a vaccine involved?
Yes, there is a vaccine for HPV called Gardasil. Young children, both male and female should get the vaccine from their medical providers between the ages of 11 or 12; young adults up to the age of 26 years are also eligible.
To see if you qualify for surprisingly affordable vaccines, you can call the Associates in Health & Wellness office or go to the CDC website.
How often should I get screened?
Screening should be done anywhere between one and three years or more, depending on your age and risk factors; unless your PCP or gynecologist recommend otherwise. Enter these dates into your calendar or set a repeating reminder if you’re using an electronic calendar. It is that important! Don’t forget to schedule your Pap test ahead of time to ensure you don’t forget.
Have more questions?
Want to speak to one of our nurse practitioners today? Send us an email, follow us on Facebook or Twitter or give us call at 844-551-6710; someone will return your call within 1-2 business days. You’ll find a 24hr or less turn around time with email.
- “US Not Making the Grade on Cervical Cancer Screening” Medscape. WebMd LLC, CDC Vital Signs, 11/1014.
- “Cervical Cancer: Practice Essentials” Medscape. WebMD LLC, n.p., 8/2014.
- “Cervical Cancer is Preventable: Too Many Missed Opportunities” Medscape. WebMD LLC, Ileana Arias, PhD. January 05, 2015.
- “X-Plain Patient Education: Pap Smear” Medline Plus. n.p., n.d.
- “Cervical Cancer” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Clinic Staff, n.p., 12/11/14.
- “Screening: Pap and HPV tests” National Cervical Cancer Coalition. n.a., n.p.