Cervical Cancer Awareness
Cervical cancer is the third most common type of cancer for women in the world, but since it develops over time, it is also one of the most preventable.
"We don't see it as much in the United States because we actually have better screening methods," said Dr. Luci Chen with the Arizona Center for Cancer Care.Screening tests, like the pap smear, have reportedly lowered the cervical cancer rate in the U.S. by more than 50 percent in the past 30 years.
"We take some tissue samples from the cervical area," Chen said. "There is a brush as well as a little swab and we can put that into a special solution. "And then they [medical professionals] look at the cells under the slide to detect if there is some abnormalities there."
The other test fighting off this disease screens for the human papillomavirus (HPV).
This is one of the main causes for cervical cancer.
"Cervical cancer is related to HPV," Chen said. "So HPV 16 and 18 [strains], there is actually over 100 HPV viruses that we know about, but those are the two most common ones that we see associated with cervical cancer."
The guidelines to getting those two tests changed in the last year.
Several medical organizations including the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Cancer Society recommend that women wait three to five years between Pap tests.
When combining the Pap test and the HPV screen, once every five years is recommended for women 30 to 65 years old.
Chen said these guidelines to not apply to women who have had abnormal results.
"It is OK as long as their doctor has done the appropriate testing and they tell them, "Yes, you're OK to not get another pap smear for another three years,'" Chen said.
While the annual Pap test is no longer the standard of care, this does not mean women should skip their annual well-women visits.
"They should still go ahead and see their doctor annual for a pelvic examination to make sure there are no other abnormalities, because there are other cancers," Chen said.