It’s pretty much a given that the annual well-woman exam is not any woman’s most favorite thing to do for her health. Most hug the line on whether to have one, with one foot firmly planted on the side of dreading the exam and the other on the side of knowing it can prevent cervical cancer.
One test that’s part of well-woman screenings is the Pap test, an easy test that checks for cancer in the cervix. Because cervical cancer is a slow-growing type of cancer, having the Pap test can catch problems before they become cancer or early enough to treat it.
Once one of the most common causes of cancer deaths for American women, cervical cancer is now among the easiest gynecological cancers to prevent and treat.
The Pap test is an effective test because it can find:
- Pre-cancerous growths that can be removed before they become cancer
- Cancer early enough to treat it, even before you have symptoms. When detected at an early stage, the five-year survival rate is over 90 percent.
A steady drop in the number of deaths from cervical cancer shows that more women are making the right choice by having the test.
Who Should Get Tested?
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends cervical cancer screenings for all women starting at age 21, using the following timing:
- Women aged 21 to 29 years every three years
- Women aged 30 to 65 years, Pap test with HPV test every five years
- Women who have had a hysterectomy or are over age 65, talk with your doctor
Are you due for your annual exam? Pap tests are one easy way to protect yourself. Talk with your doctor and schedule regular screenings.
Sources: Cervical Cancer: Screening, U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, 2018; Key Statistics for Cervical Cancer , American Cancer Society, 2018; Gynecologic Cancers-What I should Know About Screening, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 2018; Human Papillomavirus Questions and Answers, CDC, 2018; New Screening Guidelines for Cervical Cancer, American Cancer Society, 2012