Screening can help prevent cervical cancer
Here’s a popular actress talking about being “too busy” to have a Pap smear.
January is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month.
VA encourages you to talk to your primary care provider about cervical cancer testing because early detection can help save your life.
Cervical cancer was once the number one cause of cancer-related death in women. Due to increased screening, the number of cervical cancer deaths in the United States has dropped by more than 50% since the 1970s, according to the American Cancer Society.
Cervical cancer is one of the most treatable cancers if found early. A Pap (Papanicolaou) test, also known as a Pap smear, looks for cancer and pre-cancerous cervical cells. This test and screening for the human papillomavirus (HPV) testing, which is the cause of most cervical cancers, often leads to early detection. In addition to screening, there is a vaccination to prevent HPV. It is most effective if administered during childhood or adolescence, but adults can benefit from it, too.
These are some of the most helpful questions to ask during your next primary care visit:
- How often do I need a Pap or HPV test, or both?
- If my test is abnormal, how will I be contacted?
- Should I receive the HPV vaccine?
Depending on your age and current cervical health, you can be screened in three- or five-year increments. VA and the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) released new screening guidelines in 2018. You can connect with your primary care provider to better understand the new scheduled recommendations.
For women Veterans between the ages of 21 and 29, VA recommends a Pap test every three years.
For women Veterans between the ages of 30 and 65, VA recommends one of three options:
- A Pap test every three years.
- Both the Pap and HPV tests every five years.
- An HPV test every five years.
Speak to your VA provider about how to schedule a cervical cancer screening, your Pap and/or HPV test at your local VA facility.
To contact the Women Veteran Call Center, call 1-855-VA-WOMEN (1-855-829-6636). Staff there can connect you with a program manager at a local VA facility for more information. Additionally, you can chat online via real-time messaging or visit www.womenshealth.va.gov.