As women, we should all want to know the best way to protect ourselves from illness. We have careers and families and frankly we just don’t have the time (or desire) to become ill, especially seriously ill. Sadly, cervical cancer is just that – a serious condition.
Cervical screening is the best defense against the alarming rate of cancer-related mortality. Yet, the number of screenings have dropped dramatically in the past two years, most likely due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 2020 and 2021 showed low screenings and are a concern of the American Cancer Society who recommends that women between the ages of 21 and 29 should begin cervical cancer screenings every three years, and women aged 30 to 65 should be screened every 5 years. Why? Because the screenings will detect this cancer early when there is a good chance that treatment will be successful.
An easy way to stay on top of this and not miss screenings is to be vigilant about your annual well woman visits. The cervical screening is done at the same time as your pap test. Your doctor will keep track of your screenings and alert you when it’s time for one. Look at it this way – cervical cancer screenings save lives. The American College of Gynecologists state that it generally takes three to seven years for changes in the cervical cells to turn into cancer. Regular screening will detect any changes before they morph into cancer.
JAMA Network conducted a survey to better identify the reasons for the decreasing amount of cervical cancer screening, especially among underserved groups of people such as ethnic and minority groups and the LGBQ+ community. Their study used data from 2005 through 2019 from the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS). The NHIS asked those who had not received screening for more than three to five years the following question in their 2019 survey:
“What is the main reason that you have not had a cervical cancer screening ever or in the last 5 years?” The participants were asked to select one of the following 10 answers:
- Never thought about it;
- Didn’t know I needed this type of test;
- Doctor didn’t say I needed it;
- Haven’t had any problems;
- Put it off;
- Too expensive/no insurance;
- Too painful, unpleasant, or embarrassing;
- Don’t have a doctor;
- Had HPV vaccine;
The results of the survey showed that overall, the most common answer was #2 – “I didn’t know I needed this type of test.” Which of the ten answers would you have chosen? We can’t stress enough how important it is to schedule your annual wellness visit and to follow your doctor’s advice as to when to have screenings (not only cervical) on a regular basis. Nothing is more distressing to a doctor than to diagnosis late stage cervical cancer. I recently had to do just that and tell a lovely patient, a mother with a five year old son, who hadn’t had a screening in five years, that she had late stage cervical cancer that could be terminal.
Schedule your wellness appointment today and don’t delay your cervical cancer screening.
This information is not intended to be exhaustive nor should any discussion or opinions be construed as professional advice. Should you have any questions or would like to discuss cancer screenings, please contact the staff at Parveen S. Vahora, MD. We are here to help.