Don't Dismiss That Pap Test

Cervical cancer once killed more women than any other cancer in the U.S.

Then in the 1940s the Pap test was developed.

Named after the doctor who created it, the test has saved millions of women’s lives. It may well prevent up to half of all cases of cervical cancer.

Despite this success, about one out of ten American women skip this vital screening. That’s what researchers from the CDC recently uncovered.

Using data from a national health survey, they looked at how many women had ever had a Pap test. Then they compared the responses with cervical cancer cases nationwide. 

More than 133,000 women responded to the Pap test question. Researchers found many of these women were up-to-date on this screening. 

Of those who weren’t, they tended to be women younger than age 30 and those without health insurance.

The most telling finding, though: Cases of cervical cancer were highest in areas of the country—namely, southern states—where fewer women reported being screened.

Staying up-to-date

Many women aren’t fond of Pap tests. They may find them uncomfortable or even scary. But the test can save your life.

So when should you get one?

Health experts currently recommend a regular Pap test for all women ages 21 to 65.
The latest research shows the test isn’t needed every year. Instead, you should have it once every 3 years.

Women at high risk for cervical cancer may need one more often. If you are older than age 30, your doctor may also request a human papillomavirus (HPV) test at the same time. 

HPV causes most cases of cervical cancer. During a Pap test, your doctor uses a cotton swab or wooden stick to collect a small sample of cells from your cervix and vagina. Those cells are then sent to a lab, where they are viewed under a microscope. Abnormal cells may be a sign of cervical cancer. But it doesn’t mean you definitely have the disease. Other factors may affect the results.

How GMC Can Help

As Gwinnett Medical Center’s women’s health navigator, Sheila Warren is available for free wellness consultations. She can answer your health and wellness questions—about labor and lactation support, post-childbearing years, menopause and post-menopause. She can even assist with health-related questions for the children and men in your life. To schedule your free wellness consultation with Sheila, call 678-312-4740.

Or, visit our online Health (e) Library to learn more about the Pap test and your health


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