Don't pass on a Pap test

March 1, 2017

Ladies, are you up-to-date on your Pap test screenings for cervical cancer? If you aren't sure, consideriStock-477811328.jpg these facts:

  • Every woman is at risk for cervical cancer.
  • About 12,000 women in the U.S. get cervical cancer every year.
  • Symptoms usually don't appear until the cancer is advanced.

 But here's the good news: Cervical cancer is one of the easiest gynecological cancers to prevent. And according to the American Cancer Society, the incidence of this cancer has gone down more than 50 percent since 1975, thanks to widespread screening with the Pap test.

Mind your P's: Pap and prevention

During a Pap test, your doctor takes a sample of cells from your cervix. The sample is tested for precancerous cells and cancer cells.

When detected early, precancerous cells can be treated before they become cervical cancer. And when cervical cancer is found early, it's highly curable. That's why following these screening guidelines is so important:

21 First Pap test.
21 - 29 Pap test every three years, as long as test results are normal.
30 - 65 Pap test combined with a test for the human papilloma virus (HPV) every five years. This is the preferred approach, but it’s OK to have just a Pap test every three years. HPV can cause precancerous changes in the cervix and is a major cause of cervical cancer.
Over 65 No more Pap tests. The exception is for women who have had a serious precancerous change to their cervix at some point in their lives. These women should continue to be tested for at least 20 years after their diagnosis, even if testing continues past age 65.
All ages Pap tests are no longer needed after a total hysterectomy, which includes removing the cervix.

Remember: Cervical cancer can be prevented. And regular Pap smears are key to that prevention.

Additional sources: American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

FAST FACT: Pap is short for Papanicolaou. Dr. George Papanicolaou was the Greek American scientist who developed this lifesaving test.


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