Each year, almost 13,000 women are diagnosed with invasive cervical cancer in the United States, according to the American Cancer Society. Yet, cervical cancer is the most preventable female cancer today. Given that it’s National Cervical Health Awareness Month, what better time to get the word out about women’s health and important screenings that could save lives?
With few or no symptoms, cervical cancer can develop undetected, but there are ways to catch it and even prevent it.
For years, the standard for women was to get a routine cervical screening, also known as a Pap test (or Pap smear), once per year in order to help catch precancerous cells on the cervix—the organ that connects the uterus and vagina. But the National Cancer Institute and the American College of Gynecologists have changed those recommendations. During your twenties, a cervical screening should be done every three years. It is then recommended to get a screening every five years between the ages of 30 and 65.
Personal screening recommendations may vary based on a number of different factors, though, such as age and prior health history, so be sure to talk to your doctor about how often you should be screened. Even though you may not need a cervical screening as often, it’s still important to schedule your yearly women’s exam in order to prevent and detect other issues, says Dr. Heather Pugmire of the Bingham Memorial Women’s Center.
Women who smoke are more at risk than nonsmokers for getting cervical cancer. If you smoke, it’s highly recommended that you quit. To help you, many resources are available online and Bingham Memorial Hospital offers a smoking cessation community education course. Call (208) 785-3820 to learn more about this resource in your area.
Another way to help lower your risk for cervical cancer is to ask your doctor if the HPV vaccine may be right for you. HPV (human papillomavirus) is a virus that may increase your risk for developing cervical cancer. Many cases of HPV are no cause for concern, but if you have HPV, your risk for cervical cancer goes up. The HPV vaccine helps protect you from HPV, thus decreasing your risk of cancer.
Annual Health Visit
Don’t skip your annual checkups. Schedule your annual women’s health visit today. The Bingham Memorial Women’s Center has Ob-Gyns to care for all of your women’s health needs, including regular screenings and annual appointments. Call our office to schedule an appointment with any of our physicians at (208) 782-3900.
“New recommendations suggest getting a cervical screening every 3 to 5 years.”