Strong, powerful women can manage a Fortune 500 company, engineer a better car, run a 5k with a stroller in hand, but we can’t seem to find the time to schedule a simple Pap/HPV test! We like to think we know our own bodies and the steps we need to take to maintain good health. Daily life gets in the way, and we put off those vital health checks for another day.
Each year, almost 13,000 women in the U.S. have their world turned upside down due to a cervical cancer diagnosis. All women are at risk, but it happens most often to women 30 years or older. The good news is cervical cancer is the easiest to prevent with regular screenings. Cervical cancer has decreased by 50% in the U.S. over the last 30 years. When found and treated early, this type of cancer is also very curable, according to the Office on Women’s Health.
A surprising fact is that not all women in the U.S. have screenings done. The American Cancer Society (ACS) denotes that most cervical cancers may occur in women who have never had a Pap/HPV test or only recently began getting tested. Women without health insurance or who have recently moved to this country are less likely to get screenings.
Screening Guidelines from the ACS
Learn as much as you can about this women’s health issue by talking with your OB/GYN. They are the leaders in the field and will discuss prevention, risks and screenings. Be sure to follow the medical recommendations set forth by your provider as they relate to your age and personal health history.
- All women should begin cervical cancer testing (screening) at age 21.
- Women ages 21 to 29 should have a Pap test every three years. HPV testing should not be used for screening in this age group.
- Women between the ages of 30 and 64 should get a Pap test and HPV test together (co-testing) every five years or a Pap test alone every three years.
- If you’re over 65, talk with your doctor to see if you need to continue having Pap/HPV tests.
Myth or Fact?
# 1. Some women believe they can stop their cervical cancer screenings once they have children.
* False, you should continue to follow physician/ACS screening guidelines.
# 2. Cervical cancer usually does not cause symptoms right away.
* True, you may not notice any signs or symptoms of cervical cancer, but don’t wait for symptoms to appear before being tested.
# 3. You don’t need to see your doctor every year if you’re not having a Pap/HPV test.
* False, continue to have your well-woman check-up every year.
As warriors, we push through thinking we are immune to a health crisis, but you can take the lead for cervical cancer screenings as a part of your overall wellness.