How a Pap Test Could Save Your Life

Florida Hospital Medical Group Oncology |

More than 13,000 women in the U.S. will be diagnosed with cervical cancer each year. The disease occurs when abnormal cells on the cervix grow out of control. Once one of the most common causes of cancer death for American women, the cervical cancer death rate has decreased by more than half in the last 30 years due to increased use of the Pap test. This screening procedure can discover changes in the cervix early, when the cancer is in its most curable stage.

Women with pre-cancerous cells, or early stage cervical cancer, often report no symptoms. However, women who experience abnormal vaginal bleeding between periods, pain during sex or unusual discharge should see their gynecologist for an exam.

Most cervical cancer is caused by an infection of the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), and the medical community believes that a woman must be infected by HPV before she develops cervical cancer. Not every type of HPV is considered high-risk, but a few forms of the easily transmittable virus can lead to the development of cervical cancer.

If you smoke, have HIV, are overweight or were younger than age 17 when you had your first full-term pregnancy, your risk for developing cervical cancer is higher. In the U.S., Hispanic women are most likely to get cervical cancer, followed by African-Americans, Asians and Pacific Islanders, and Caucasians.

Though cervical cancer is most commonly found in women older than 20 and younger than 50, the risk of developing cervical cancer is still present as women age. The American Cancer Society recommends that women between the ages of 21 and 65 have a Pap test every three years.


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