Report signals need for greater attention to cervical cancer screening

Women’s attention to cervical health is on the decline, with fewer women getting screened for cervical cancer in the past three years than in years prior.

A nationwide report card released last month revealed that only 78 percent of women between the ages of 18 and 64 had Pap smears in a three-year period, compared with nearly 85 percent noted in 2007.

As January is Cervical Health Awareness Month, we encourage women to start the New Year by making an appointment with their provider to get screened.

According to the American Cancer Society, roughly 12,000 women were diagnosed with cervical cancer in 2010 despite the widespread availability of screenings. More than 4,000 women died in 2010 from this preventable disease. This type of cancer occurs most commonly in middle-aged women, with the majority of cases found in women younger than 50. And almost half of cervical cancer cases are diagnosed in the later stages, when the cancer is more difficult to treat. The good news is that cervical cancer is the easiest gynecological cancer to prevent. A Pap smear can detect cervical changes early, before they turn into cancer. And your prognosis is better when you catch cervical cancer in its early stages – which is why getting tested regularly is so important.

The screening guidelines for women are as follows:

  • Women should get their first Pap smear at age 21.
  • Between the ages of 21 and 29, women should be screened every two years.
  • Women between the ages of 30 and 65 who have had three consecutive normal Pap tests may be screened every three years.
  • Women older than 65 should talk to their provider about frequency of screenings.

Visit the Providence Cancer Center website for important resources and information.