Worldwide, Cervical Cancer is the third most common type of cancer in women. But it's much less common in the United States because Americans understand the importance of routine pap smears. Typically, it's a cancer that develops slowly, which is why regular pap smears can take the credit for finding it early, and paving the way for treatment and a cure.
We hear a lot about preventive medicine and how it can help us live longer, healthier lives. Well, when it comes to prevention that makes a difference, few things compare to the success we have had with battling cervical cancer.
Cervical cancer is a type of tumor that occurs in a portion of a woman's uterus. It has received attention recently because of the controversy over a vaccine designed to reduce a woman's chance of becoming infected with the human papillomavirus, a known cause of cervical cancer. But that's an argument for another time.
Today, I want to talk about the success we've had with another great tool in the battle against cervical cancer -- the Pap test. Because most cervical cancers start out as precancerous cells, tests capable of identifying these cells alert the doctor to the potential for a problem. That's where the Pap test comes in.
It's a method by which a doctor collects a sample of cells from a woman's cervix. Then the cell samples are analyzed via microscope for cellular abnormalities. There are degrees of abnormal, ranging from mild changes requiring nothing more than repeat testing to more serious abnormalities needing further evaluation and treatment.
Pap testing has become more widespread in the United States in the past few decades, and, as a result, we've seen a reduction in the number of deaths from the disease. According to the American Cancer Society, in countries where Pap tests are not performed, death rates from cervical cancer are higher. Even in the United States, most women diagnosed with cervical cancer hadn't had a Pap smear in the previous five-year period.
Recommendations vary as to how often the test should be performed (based on factors such as age), your doctor can create a testing schedule that's appropriate for your situation.
As life gets more hectic, we often don't take the time to do the things we should to keep ourselves healthy. Undergoing routine Pap testing should be part of a woman's strategy to keep herself healthy and strong.
For the TTUHSC, I'm Dr. Tedd Mitchell, and this is the President's Prescription.
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