With so much information out there, it’s easy to get confused by some of the myths about cervical cancer and regular screenings. Cervical cancer is a specific type of cancer that occurs in the lining of the cervix (the lower part of the uterus), but it can spread to other parts of the body if left untreated. In 2018, the American Cancer Society estimates about 13,240 cases of cervical cancer will be diagnosed in the United States.
We’ve put together a list of the seven most common myths patients ask our doctors about to help you be better informed and take care of your health.
Myth #1: I don’t need to get screened because cervical cancer doesn’t run in my family.
Fact: Most cervical cancers are caused by certain types of the human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV is spread by skin contact during sex with someone who has the virus. Although HPV is very common, few men and women will go on to develop cancer. The lack of a family history of cervical cancer is not a predictor of cervical cancer and is not a reason to skip screening.
Myth #2: I don’t need to get screened because I don’t have any symptoms.
Fact: A screening test looks for abnormalities in otherwise healthy people who are not having any symptoms. Women with abnormal cervical cells aren’t likely to experience any symptoms, but abnormal cells can still be detected through screenings. You shouldn’t wait until you are experiencing symptoms to get a screening test.
Myth #3: I don’t want to get screened because if I have cervical cancer it can’t be treated.
Fact: Screening tests help prevent cervical cancer by detecting abnormal cells on the cervix so they can be treated before they turn into cancer. Women who don’t get screened regularly miss the opportunity to detect abnormal cervical tissue early, when treatment is very effective.
Myth #4: Cervical cancer cannot be prevented.
Fact: Cervical cancer is preventable with regular screening tests and a vaccine that protects against types of HPV that cause most cervical cancers.
Myth #5: All women need an annual Pap test to screen for cervical cancer.
Fact: Annual screening is not recommended for women at average risk. Women between the ages of 21 to 65 should be screened for cervical cancer every three years. Talk to your doctor about setting up a screening schedule that is right for you.
Myth #6: Older women don’t need cervical cancer screenings.
Fact: Screening for cervical cancer screening can stop at age 65 if your results have always been normal. Ask your doctor or health care provider if you should still be tested.
Myth #7: Women who have received the HPV vaccine don’t need Pap tests.
Fact: Regular Pap tests are still necessary for women who have had the HPV vaccine. The vaccine protects against some types of HPV, but not all.
Know the facts
In order to take the best care of your health, you must have the right information. Our doctors at Women’s Care work with patients every day to help them understand their health and create plans that are right for them.
We believe that annual exams with one of our physicians are an essential way to promote your overall health. Our obstetrician/gynecologists are experienced with performing routine Pap and HPV tests. If you would like to learn more about cervical cancer screenings or schedule a screening with one of our doctors, contact us at our Eugene or Springfield location.