What Should I Know about Cervical Cancer Screening and Prevention?

Author: Lindsey Ulrich

Screenings can prevent more cervical cancers by finding abnormal cervical cell changes, so they can be treated before they have a chance to develop into cancer.  



According to the Centers of Disease Control (CDC), more than 12,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer each year, more than 4,000 women die of cervical cancer each year, and 93% of cervical cancers could be prevented through screening and receiving the HPV (human papillomavirus) vaccine.

"We’ve made great strides over the past 20 years in screening for cervical cancer with the availability of HPV testing and identifying the human papillomavirus as the leading cause for cancer,” said Laura Kota, OB-GYN at McLaren Greater Lansing Women’s Health. “Yet, screenings and prevention measures are still at a low percentage among young women."

In fact, more than 50% of all new cervical cancers are in women who have never been screened or haven’t been screened the last five years. The percentage of women screened has also declined since April 2020 compared to previous five-year averages due to prolonged delays in screening related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dr. Kota stresses the importance of annual exams and how they can show early signs of cancers through a PAP test, that is used to test for HPV.

“Women should start receiving yearly pelvic exams starting at the age of 21, including a PAP test that can also screen for HPV every three years,” said Dr. Kota.

Screenings can prevent most cervical cancers by finding abnormal cervical cell changes (pre-cancer cells), so they can be treated before they have a chance to develop into cancer. Vaccines are also available to help protect children and young adults against certain HPV infections that are linked to cancer.

“The HPV vaccine is recommended for children starting at the age of nine through the age of 26,” said Dr. Kota.

Women with cervical cancer or pre-cancers may not have symptoms. As the cancer becomes larger and grows, they may develop abnormal bleeding, unusual discharge, and pain in the pelvic area.

“Don’t wait for symptoms to appear,” said Dr. Kota. “It is important to have regular screening tests and talk to your doctor about prevention options such as the HPV vaccine.”

To schedule an appointment with Dr. Kota. See a list of primary care providers and OB-GYNs who are accepting new patients.

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