Having a Regular Pap Test Can Help Prevent Cervical Cancer

Cancer Care, Healthy Living, Preventive Service, Women's Health Steward Health Care

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January is Cervical Health Awareness Month, and there are steps you can take today to prevent cervical cancer.

Each year, approximately 12,000 women in the United States are diagnosed with cervical cancer. But cervical cancer is one of the most preventable types of cancer. In most cases, cervical cancer can be prevented through early detection and treatment of abnormal cell changes that occur in the cervix years before cervical cancer develops. These cell changes are caused by human papillomavirus (HPV), which is a very common infection that spreads through sexual activity. About 79 million Americans currently have HPV, but many people with HPV don’t know they are infected.

The traditional test for early detection has been the Pap test, which can help detect abnormal cells before they turn into cancer. It is recommended that women start having regular Pap tests at age 21. For women over 30 years old, an HPV test may be used along with a Pap. HPV tests can find any of the high-risk types of HPV that are commonly found in cervical cancer.

And the good news is that most insurance plans cover well-woman visits and cervical cancer screening. Check with your insurance company to learn more about your plan’s coverage.

So, even though some women squirm at the thought of having a Pap, taking these small steps can help keep you safe and healthy.

*Source: National Cervical Center Coalition, http://www.nccc-online.org/

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