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Get a Pap Test for Cervical Health Awareness

It's recommended women get a Pap smear test starting at the age of 21. (womenshealth.gov)
It's recommended women get a Pap smear test starting at the age of 21. (womenshealth.gov)
January 29, 2018

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — According to the National Cancer Institute, cervical cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer deaths in women in their 20s and 30s. But health care professionals say cervical cancer also is highly preventable.

January is Cervical Health Awareness Month, but with just a few days left in the month, health care advocates are encouraging women to make it a priority to schedule a test, whenever you can. Lynn Erdman is CEO of the Asssociation of Women's Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses, an organization that promotes the health of women and newborns.

"If you have not done anything about a Pap test or, you know, even had your HPV vaccine, which you can have up to age 26, then make a call,” Erdman said. “It could be February, March, it could be any time during the year. Just make that call and take some action to make sure you're protecting yourself as well."

Erdman said most women should start getting a Pap smear test at the age of 21. The test identifies if you have human papillomavirus, also known as HPV, or cervical cancer.

Erdman said the general rule is that people should get a Pap smear test every three years. And for those thinking of going for the first time, Erdman said the procedure is painless.

"If you are eligible or your physical is offering, have an HPV test done, too, to see if you've got HPV,” she suggested. “That's a blood test and done in conjunction with the Pap test, but the Pap test will actually show you if there are any abnormalities in your cervical cells."

There are several risk factors that may increase the chance of developing cervical cancer, including: HPV infection, smoking, being overweight and having a family history of cervical cancer.

Veronica Carter, Public News Service - IL