Getting a Pap test can save your life

A Pap test, also called a Pap smear, can detect cervical cancer early. For women ages 21 to 65, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends screening for cervical cancer at least once every three years.

Cervical cancer is caused by human papillomavirus, or HPV, which can be detected through a Pap test. Detecting HPV early on can help treat the infection before it has a chance to turn into cancer. Any woman who has been sexually active is at risk for developing HPV. Even if you've had the HPV vaccine, you should get regular Pap tests. The HPV vaccine lowers the risk of certain types of cervical cancer — but it doesn't prevent them.

Get checked for chlamydia

If you are 24 years old or younger, ask your doctor about a chlamydia screening as well. Most women who have the disease don't know it, as chlamydia often has no symptoms. If left untreated, chlamydia can cause pelvic inflammatory disease and may lead to sterility.

Helping women of limited means

Providence offers care for women who cannot afford it through the Oregon Breast and Cervical Cancer Program. This program helps low-income, uninsured and medically underserved women gain access to lifesaving screening programs for early detection of breast and cervical cancers. Each year, approximately 7,000 eligible women receive screening services.

Funding for this program is provided by the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Oregon and SW Washington Affiliate and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. For more information and for eligibility requirements, please call the Breast and Cervical Cancer Program toll-free hotline: 877-255-7070.