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What women should know about cervical cancer
1/22/2016 11:38:23 AM

Tammy Gray
By Tammy Gray, nurse educator and director of Naval Health Clinic Charleston's Health and Wellness Program

Cervical cancer is often called the "silent killer" because women with cervical cancer in its early stages typically have no symptoms. It is not until the cancer spreads and becomes invasive that symptoms present themselves. By this time, it is usually too late.

The good news is that because women are being more proactive and undergoing screening for the disease, the number of deaths from cervical cancer in the past 40 years has decreased significantly, according to the American Cancer Society.

However, more than 12,000 new cases of cervical cancer were diagnosed in the U.S. last year, and 4,030 women died as a result of the disease, suggesting that there is still more we need to do to combat cervical cancer.

The most important measure a woman can take to prevent cervical cancer is to have regular Pap screening tests beginning from the age of 21 until 65, every three years, if the results are normal. Women 30 years old or older should get tested for HPV, the Human Papilloma Virus (just one of the causes of cervical cancer), along with a Pap smear, every five years.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 8 million women who should be getting regular cervical cancer screenings are not getting them. An estimated 93 percent of the diagnosed cases of cervical cancer could have been prevented with a single Pap screening test, according to the American Cancer society.

Women can be their own best advocates by asking their clinical care providers to schedule Pap tests. Scheduling a Pap test is easy, and life-saving.

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