January is here, and you know what that means. It’s time to wear your teal and white to represent Cervical Cancer Awareness Month! Cervical cancer is considered one of the most preventable types of cancer, due to early detection and medical intervention. Yet 12,000 women in the United States are diagnosed with cervical cancer annually, and one third of them will die from the disease. The best defense against cervical cancer is as easy as a visit to your doctor’s office. That’s right. A simple Pap test can protect you from developing cervical cancer.
A Pap test is a routine screening method that examines the cells of the cervix, the narrow opening into the uterus from the vagina. During a Pap test, your healthcare provider will use a brush or spatula device to gently collect cells from your cervix. These cells will be sent to a lab where they can be examined under a microscope to detect any precancerous changes or abnormalities.
In addition to Pap testing, women should also begin routine HPV testing at age 30. HPV, also known as the Human papillomavirus, is a virus that is spread through skin-to-skin contact. HPV is believed to be the most common sexually transmitted disease, with over 80 percent of women being infected by age 50. Most cases of HPV are harmless and asymptomatic; over 90 percent will clear up on their own within two years. However, in some instances, a high-risk type of HPV results in a persistent infection, which can progress to cervical cancer.
To ensure the most accurate results from your Pap and HPV test, try to schedule the appointment at a time when you do not expect your period. If your period does coincide with your appointment, try to call the office and reschedule. You should also avoid intercourse, douching, tampons or any vaginal creams for 48 hours prior to your appointment.
If test results from your Pap and HPV test both return normal, you won’t need to be tested again for three years (Source: National Cervical Cancer Coalition).
Managing your risk against cervical cancer is easy! Don’t delay in scheduling that routine Pap or HPV test with your healthcare provider. If you’re due for an appointment, let Cervical Cancer Awareness Month serve as a friendly reminder to put your health first. There’s no reason not to!