Many women missing vital step to prevent cervical cancer, says CDC

Nov. 13, 2014—Many women are not getting screened for cervical cancer, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). That’s concerning given the importance of the screening: It can allow doctors to detect abnormal cells before they turn into cancer and give women the opportunity to take steps to potentially prevent the disease.

About the study

CDC researchers reviewed national health data to determine the number of women who hadn’t been screened for cervical cancer in the past 5 years. They also analyzed cervical cancer cases and deaths that occurred between 2007 and 2011.

While rates of cervical cancer dropped by around 2 percent, other findings were less encouraging:

  • In 2012, nearly 8 million women ages 21 to 65 reported not being screened for cervical cancer within the past 5 years.
  • The percentage of women who had not been screened was largest among those without health insurance or a regular healthcare provider.
  • Older women and women living in the southern United States were less likely to be screened.

The numbers suggest that too many women are missing opportunities for cervical cancer screenings, which can help reduce the number of cervical cancer cases and deaths. According to CDC, more than half of all new cervical cancers occur in women who have never been screened or haven’t been screened in the last 5 years. You can read CDC’s findings here.

The take-home message
All women are at risk for cervical cancer, and getting tested can save lives. It’s essential for women to learn about their screening options and get the test that’s right for them:

  • Women ages 21 to 29, including those who have had the vaccine for human papillomavirus (HPV), should have a Pap test—a way to screen for cervical cancer by testing for abnormal cells—every 3 years.
  • Women ages 30 to 65 should have either a Pap test every 3 years or a Pap test plus HPV test every 5 years.
  • Women over age 65 should ask their doctor if they need to continue screening.
  • All women should talk with their doctors and nurses to understand their screening results.

Health insurance plans that started on or after Sept. 23, 2010, are required to cover recommended cervical cancer screening tests—usually at no cost to you. If you don’t have health insurance, you can find a plan at Open enrollment starts Nov. 15, 2014.

In addition to cervical cancer screening, another good way to prevent cervical cancer is to get an HPV vaccine. Giving girls and boys ages 11 and 12 an HPV vaccine offers them the best protection against the HPV virus. Doing so can also help reduce a girl’s risk for developing cervical cancer later in life.

Read on to learn more about what you can do to identify and reduce your risk of developing cervical cancer.


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