Screenings for cervical cancer can lower death rates significantly
The percentage of women in America who undergo mammograms to detect breast cancer has remained steady during the past decade. Unfortunately, the percentage of women who receive Pap tests to detect cervical cancer has declined slightly, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Regular medical screenings are key to disease detection. But some segments of the population may not be familiar with the tools that help prevent cervical cancer in the first place. Research has shown that Hispanic and black women statistically are more likely to develop cervical cancer because they are less likely to have access to early screening and treatment.
“Since screening and earlier treatment of cervical cancer can reduce death rates dramatically, it’s important from a public health perspective that women get screened,” says Dr. Jayanthi Lea, a gynecologic oncologist at UT Southwestern Medical Center.
A Pap test, or “Pap smear,” is the traditional screening method used for cervical cancer, detecting abnormal cervical changes before they become cancerous. The Pap smear is not a diagnostic test, however, and multiple Pap smears are needed to compare and observe any abnormal changes.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that women have their first Pap smear about three years after their first sexual intercourse or by age 21, whichever comes first. Clinical studies suggest that screening with both a Pap test and an HPV test offers women 30 and older the best protection against cervical cancer.
Thankfully, cervical cancer is one of the most treatable cancers. When caught early, cervical cancer’s five-year survival rate is nearly 100 percent.
Visit www.utsouthwestern.org/cancer to learn more about UT Southwestern’s clinical services for cancer.
January is Cervical Health Awareness Month
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