At my last Doctor appointment, my Doctor said to me “One death from cervical cancer is too many.” He then proceeded to talk about the importance of having pap smears annually if for no other reason than to save your own life. The reason we were having this discussion is because, although I, a nurse, should know better, I had not had a pap smear in over 7 years. My visit with the Doctor today was to have a colposcopy to further examine my cervix after my first pap smear in 7 years came back abnormal.
Reasons To Get Your Pap Smear Routinely
To tell you that getting your pap smear routinely may save your life should be enough, but as many of us know, it isn’t. Too many of us wait for something bad to happen before we decide it is time to do something. Fortunately, unlike smoking, drinking and other killers, a pap smear is quick, cheap, minimally painful and usually only has to be done once a year.
So, why should make sure you get that pap smear? Did my Doctor saying “One death from cervical cancer is to many” mean anything to you? How about that a women dies from cervical cancer every two minutes; how long did it take you to read this article; how many women died from something so preventable? How about on the list of common cancers worldwide, cervical cancer comes in at number 5.
Not only is a pap smear easy to get done; not only is cervical cancer deadly; it usually takes over 10 years for precancerous cells to develop. Generally, cervical cancer can be treated and cured a whopping 90% of the time. Unfortunately, you can not be treated or cured if you not diagnosed therefore without the papsmear your diagnosis can not be made (Cervicalcancer.org, 2007).
You Can Afford A Pap Smear
My excuse for not getting my pap smear routinely was that I did not have health insurance. After seeing what happened to Jade Goody, I called my local health department to see if they offered pap smears. Not only did they have a Nurse Practitioner that would do my pap smear, they charged on a sliding scale. On the sliding scale, many women will get their pap smear for free and even if you have to pay, it is not much. My pap smear cost under $40 and they take payments whenever you can afford to pay. Check with your local health department to see what programs they offer. When my pap smear came back abnormal, I was reffered to the OB/GYN of my choice and the health department will continue to help me pay the costs associated.
Suggested Pap Smear Schedule
It is recommended that all women that are 30 years of age and younger get a pap smear annually. You should also have a annual pap smear if you are HIV positive or immunocompromised (HHS,2009).
Women who are 30 to 65 years old and have had 3 normal pap smear results may be able to have their pap smear every 2 to 3 years, it is important to check with your Doctor to see what they recommend based on your health and history (HHS, 2009).
Women who are 65 years of age and older and have had 3 normal pap smear results may be able to quit having pap smears altogether, again check with your Doctor to see what they recommend (HHS, 2009).
Even if you have had a hysterectomy, it is important to check with your Doctor before you make the decision not to have your pap smear. There are different ways a hysterectomy can be complteted and you may still be at risk.
CervicalCancer.org, (2007). Cervical cancer statistics. Retrieved June 9, 2009, from CervicalCancer.org Web site: http://www.cervicalcancer.org/statistics.html
HHS, (2009). Pap test frequently asked questions. Retrieved June 9, 2009, from U.S Department of Health and Human Services Web site: http://www.womenshealth.gov/faq/pap-test.cfm#pap04