January is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month!
Ladies, call your doctors, it’s time for a check-up! Cervical cancer, one of the most preventable and treatable cancers, is on the decline. Through research, education and the invention of the cervical cancer vaccine, new cases of cervical cancer have dropped dramatically in the United States.
While this is certainly cause to celebrate, we are far from out of the woods. In November, the American College for Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) announced new guidelines for when woman should undergo pap smears and annual check-ups. Under the old standards, any woman age 18 and up was advised to receive annual gynecologic exams. Under the new guidelines, however, ACOG advises women to wait until the age of 20 before receiving their first pap smear, regardless of sexual activity, with follow-up every two years. According to the ACOG’s new guidelines, women in their 30’s should undergo the exam once every 3 years.
As a young woman, I was always told that any sexually active woman, regardless of age, should undergo an annual gynecological check-up. Doing so just seemed to be a good general health practice all around.
If cervical cancer is so treatable and preventable, it certainly begs the question: Why adopt new guidelines when the previous ones were having the desired effect of reducing cervical cancer rates?
It seems obvious that with yearly check-ups and early detection, we’ve been able to keep this specific type of cancer at bay.
New guidelines or not, it’s important to talk with your gynecologist and decide on a course of action that best suits you. I, for one, will continue to see my doctor yearly. What’s a little discomfort in the grand scheme of things!
To learn more about cervical cancer, please visit: http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/types/cervical/
Submitted by guest editor Heather Matthews, Patient Navigator LLC, Cancer Research Specialist