National Cervical Cancer Awareness Month
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the most recent annual statistics state that 12,578 women in the United States were diagnosed with cervical cancer and 4,115 women died from the disease.
The cervix is the lower, narrow end of the uterus. The cervix connects the vagina (birth canal) to the upper part of the uterus. The uterus (or womb) is where a baby grows when a woman is pregnant.
Cervical cancer is highly preventable in the United States because screening tests and a vaccine to prevent human papillomavirus (HPV) infections are available.
“When cervical cancer is found early, it is treatable,” said ARH OB-GYN Specialist Tina Gaunt, MD. “However, in order to find it early, it is important that women have regular Pap screenings.”
Cervical cancer is the easiest gynecologic cancer to prevent, with regular screening tests and follow-up. Two screening tests can help prevent cervical cancer or find it early—
- The Pap test (or Pap smear) looks for precancers, cell changes on the cervix that might become cervical cancer if they are not treated appropriately.
- The HPV test looks for the virus (human papillomavirus) that can cause these cell changes.
CDC guidelines state that the Pap test is recommended for all women between the ages of 21 and 65 years old, and can be done in a doctor’s office. During the Pap test, the doctor will use a plastic or metal instrument, called a speculum, to widen your vagina. This helps the doctor examine the vagina and the cervix, and collect a few cells and mucus from the cervix and the area around it. The cells are then placed on a slide or in a bottle of liquid and sent to a laboratory. The laboratory will check to be sure that the cells are normal.
If you get the HPV test along with the Pap test, the cells collected during the Pap test also will be tested for HPV. Talk with your healthcare provider about whether the HPV test is right for you. If you need a healthcare provider, go to: www.arh.org/findadoc or call an ARH clinic near you.
Women who have a Pap screening at an ARH clinic during the month of January will receive a free gift and be entered into a special drawing for a $250 gift card.