Life-Saving Screening Greatly Reduces Cervical Cancer Deaths

Resolutions abound in the New Year, and having recommended health screenings should be a priority. January is Cervical Health Awareness Month and a prime time to highlight the importance of routine Pap tests. Raising awareness among women is especially important because life-saving tests are readily available and, when caught early, cervical cancer can be successfully treated.

Cervical cancer is the easiest female cancer to prevent with regular screening tests and follow-up. The Pap test (or Pap smear) looks for cell changes on the cervix that might become cervical cancer if not treated appropriately. The HPV test looks for the virus that can cause these cell changes.

It’s important to remember that cervical cancer is a preventable disease, “as long as it’s caught early enough,” said NCCC Executive Director Sarina Araujo.

In fact, when cervical cancer is found early, it is highly treatable and associated with long survival and good quality of life. Unfortunately, six out of 10 cervical cancers occur in women who have never received a Pap test or have not been tested in the past five years.

This problem is especially pronounced among women with disabilities. Research shows that women with disabilities are less likely to get Pap tests than women without disabilities. In addition, healthcare facilities may be inaccessible and ill equipped to serve people with disabilities, so preventive services like Pap smears are often overlooked.

Public education and outreach are key to promoting good cervical health for all women, and eliminating screening disparities for women with disabilities. For more information and to learn how you can help during Cervical Health Awareness Month, visit the National Cervical Cancer Coalition (NCCC) www.nccc-online.org .