Screening for Cervical Cancer
Years ago, cervical cancer was the leading cause of cancer death for women in the United States. However, in the past 40 years, both the number of cases and the number of deaths from cervical cancer have decreased dramatically, mainly due to women being screened through regular Pap tests.
Risk Factors for Cervical Cancer
Cervical cancer is almost always caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV), a sexually transmitted infection. While vaccines are available to protect against the types of HPV that cause most cervical cancers, the only certain way of avoiding the virus is through sexual abstinence. You can reduce your risk by limiting your number of sex partners or being in a faithful relationship with one partner who has had few or no past sex partners.
A Pap test (also called a Pap smear) should be a part of your routine annual well-woman exam beginning in your early 20s. Pap tests can find the earliest signs of cervical cancer as well as infections and abnormal cervical cells that can turn into cancer cells. Treating these early signs can prevent most cases of cervical cancer from developing.
Some women experience mild discomfort, similar to menstrual cramps, during the Pap test, but this usually goes away once the exam is finished. If you experience any pain during or after the test, let your doctor know immediately.
To learn more about cervical cancer screening at the Methodist Cancer Center, please call us at 713-790-2700.