Who should take steps to get cervical cancer screening? The answer to this question is simple: anyone who has a cervix should be aware of the risks of cervical cancer and pursue appropriate screening. If you have a cervix, regardless of your gender identity, screening is necessary to protect your health and catch any early signs of cervical cancer if they are present.
Who is at risk for cervical cancer?
The biggest risk factor for cervical cancer is chronic HPV (Human Papilloma Virus) infection. There are other factors based on your family or medical history that can increase your risk, which your provider will discuss with you.
Even if you do not believe you have risk factors for cervical cancer, it is important to talk to your healthcare provider about cervical cancer screening
As with most cancers, regular screenings are the best way to detect cervical cancer early. Early detection reduces the incidence of precancerous changes developing into cancer.
Cervical cancer rarely causes early symptoms, so regular screenings are the best way to protect your health.
If you are between the ages of 21 to 29, experts from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommend a cervical cancer screening every three years (if screening results are normal). If you are between 30 and 65, it is recommended that you get a screening every five years (again, if screening results are normal.)
Another preventive measure that your provider may recommend is the HPV vaccine, which protects against high-risk strains of HPV that can cause cervical cancer. Many people receive this vaccine starting at age 9 to 11, but if you have not, you can discuss this with your provider to see if it makes sense for you.
What to expect from the screening process
Cervical cancer screening involves a pap smear — a test that is highly effective in detecting changes in the cells of the cervix that could be precancerous or cancerous. If abnormal cells are detected, your provider will discuss management recommendations with you. Early detection and management of precancerous findings reduce the likelihood of progression to cancer.
It is important to remember that an abnormal result on a pap smear does not equal cervical cancer, but it can reveal the need for additional testing to confirm any diagnosis and develop a plan for any treatment that may be needed. Your provider will help you understand the results of your pap smear and guide you through the next steps.
Every person’s situation is different, so remember that your provider will recommend the next step that’s best for you. If you have an abnormal result, your provider may recommend more testing immediately, or they may recommend that you repeat the pap smear again in 12 months. Whatever step your provider recommends, they will always follow the guidelines set forward by The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists to make sure you get the care you need.
Your provider is here to help — and to listen
The cervical cancer screening process can be intimidating at first. If you are feeling apprehensive or nervous, or just want to avoid it altogether, you are not alone. Many people feel the same way. A great place to start is by talking to your provider and expressing any fear, anxiety, or hesitancy you are feeling. They will do everything they can to help you feel comfortable and prepared — as well as to make sure that your health is protected for the future.
Make an appointment for a cervical cancer screening today