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January is Cervical Cancer Prevention Month

1/10/2014, noon

Cervical Health Awareness Month is a chance to raise awareness about how women can protect themselves from HPV (human papillomavirus) and cervical cancer.

About 79 million Americans currently have HPV, the most common sexually transmitted disease. HPV is a major cause of cervical cancer.

The good news? HPV can be prevented with the HPV vaccine.

Cervical cancer can often be prevented with regular screening tests (called Pap tests) and follow-up care.

A Pap test can help detect abnormal (changed) cells early, before they turn into cancer. Most deaths from cervical cancer can be prevented if women get regular Pap tests and follow-up care.

Take these steps to help prevent cervical cancer

Schedule your Pap test.

Call a doctor’s office or local health clinic to schedule your Pap test and pelvic exam.

What about cost?

Testing for cervical cancer is covered under the Affordable Care Act, the health care reform law passed in 2010. Depending on your insurance plan, you may be able to get tested at no cost to you.

If you have private insurance, check with your insurance provider to find out what’s included in your plan. Ask about the Affordable Care Act.

If you don’t have insurance, find a program near you that offers free or low-cost Pap tests.

If you have Medicare, find out how often Medicare covers Pap tests and pelvic exams

The Basics

You can help prevent cervical cancer by getting regular screening tests (called Pap tests) and follow-up care. A Pap test (sometimes called a Pap smear) is done in a doctor’s office or clinic.

Most deaths from cervical cancer can be prevented if women get regular Pap tests. A Pap test can find abnormal (changed) cells before they turn into cancer. Pap tests can also find cervical cancer early, when it usually can be cured.

How often should I get tested?

How often you get screened is based on how old you are and how you are screened.

If you are age 21 to 29, get a Pap test every 3 years. If you are age 30 to 65, get screened every 3 to 5 years based on:

If you have just a Pap test, get screened every 3 years.

If you have a Pap test and an HPV test, get screened every 5 years.

If you are age 66 or older, ask your doctor if cervical cancer screening is recommended for you.

What happens during a Pap test?

A Pap test takes about 2 to 5 minutes. It may feel uncomfortable, but a Pap test doesn’t hurt.

While you lie on the exam table, the doctor or nurse will put a medical tool (called a speculum) into your vagina and open it to see the cervix. The doctor or nurse will use a special brush to collect a few cells from the cervix. These cells are sent to a lab to be checked by an expert.

The doctor or nurse will also do a pelvic exam to check the uterus, ovaries, and other organs.