WILLIAMSON — In 2012, the American Cancer Society released new screening recommendations for women who have no symptoms of cervical cancer, in order to prevent and detect the disease. Among the changes is the fact that the American Cancer Society no longer recommends that women get a Pap test every year.
During the past few decades, screening has reduced deaths from cervical cancer, as doctors have been able to find cancer early and treat it, or prevent it from ever developing. Researchers continue to find out more about what causes cervical cancer and the best ways to screen for it.
There are 2 types of tests used for cervical cancer screening. The Pap test can find early cell changes and treat them before they become cancer. The Pap test can also find cervical cancer early, when it’s easier to treat. The HPV (human papilloma virus) test finds certain infections that can lead to cell changes and cancer. HPV infections are very common, and most go away by themselves and don’t cause these problems. The HPV test may be used along with a Pap test, or to help doctors decide how to treat women who have an abnormal Pap test.
The American Cancer Society regularly reviews the science and updates screening recommendations when new evidence suggests that a change may be needed. The latest recommendations are that all women should begin cervical cancer screening at age 21. Women between the ages of 21 and 29 should have a Pap test every 3 years. They should not be tested for HPV unless it is needed after an abnormal Pap test result.
Women between the ages of 30 and 65 should have both a Pap test and an HPV test every 5 years. This is the preferred approach, but it is also considered to be acceptable to have a Pap test alone, every 3 years. Those over the age of 65 who have had regular screenings with normal results should not be screened for cervical cancer. Women who have been diagnosed with cervical pre-cancer, however; should continue to be screened and those who have had their uterus and cervix removed in a hysterectomy and have no repeat history of cervical cancer or pre-cancer should not be screened. Females who have had the HPV vaccine should still follow the screening recommendations for their age group.
Women who are at high risk for cervical cancer may need to be screened more often. Those at high risk might include a diagnosis of the HIV infection, a recipient of an organ transplant, or exposure to the drug DES. These individuals should talk with their doctor or nurse to see what plan of action is best for their situation.
In short, the American Cancer Society no longer recommends that women get a Pap test every year, because it generally takes much longer than that, sometimes 10 to 20 years for cervical cancer to develop, and overly frequent-screening could lead to procedures that are not medically necessary.
Cancer Screenings can save lives. Statistics show they have, in fact, saved many lives, and that is exactly why the American Cancer Society has launched the Community Health Advisor (CHA) program in Mingo, Logan and Boone Counties. The purpose of this local CHA program is to reduce breast, colorectal and cervical cancer disparities by increasing awareness through education about the extreme importance of early detection and cancer screening. The program links the community with area resources by utilizing volunteer Community Health Advisors (CHAs) who collaborate with local outreach organizations to provide access to low or no-cost breast, colorectal and cervical cancer screenings for women in these counties. The CHA volunteers also help navigate women to these lifesaving screenings by enrolling them in the CHA program and providing them access to resources to overcome barriers to screening.
If you have a passion for helping others, the organization will be happy to train you to be a CHA Volunteer. If you are interested in becoming a Community Health Advisor (CHA) Volunteer, or would just like more information, please contact Vicky Hughes at 304-638-5730, or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Together, let’s help create a world with less cancer and more birthdays! Join us and help save lives within your own community,” stated Hughes.