4 Things to Know About Cervical Cancer Screenings Headlines

Sue Dunlap
CEO, Planned Parenthood Los Angeles

You’re not alone if you’ve skipped cancer screenings. But taking the best possible care of yourself does not have to be difficult.

Cervical cancer is one of the most preventable cancers when caught early. Even so, women put off screenings due to time, cost, anxiety and lack of awareness. A national study conducted by Planned Parenthood last year revealed that too many women aren’t getting their recommended cancer screenings.

Whether or not you feel healthy, preventive care is too important to avoid. As much as 93 percent of cervical cancer cases could be prevented by screening and HPV vaccination.

Cervical cancer is caused by certain types of HPV, or human papillomavirus, a common sexually-transmitted infection. In most cases, the body’s immune system clears HPV naturally — but high-risk HPV can sometimes lead to cancer. Pap smears screen for HPV. While there is no cure, there are treatments for the abnormal cell changes it can cause in the cervix, available at some Planned Parenthood health centers. Current guidelines for cervical cancer screenings call for:

  • Initial Pap test at age 21

  • Pap test every three years for women and transgender men aged 21-29

  • Pap or HPV test every three years for women and transgender men aged 30-64, or both Pap and HPV tests every five years

  • More frequent screenings for women and transgender men with certain abnormalities.

Talking about the importance of screening helps. Ask your loved ones when the last time they had a checkup was – and if they’re delaying care, ask what is holding them back. Your encouragement could make the difference.

Since her diagnosis with uterine cancer, Fran Drescher has changed her focus and perspective. “Mind, body and spirit must be in balance for my immune system to operate at an optimum level,” she explains. And since she was first diagnosed, she’s become more self-aware about managing her stress levels and reducing the toxins she says are “prevalent in most people’s daily life.”

Detox your home

The Cancer Schmancer Foundation created a “Detox Your Home” program because the home, as Drescher puts it, “is the most toxic place we spend the most time, and ironically, have the most control over.”

The program challenges you to examine several different factors. What you put in your body – specifically, what are you eating? What are you putting on your body – with the skin being the largest organ in the body, what personal care items are you using? And lastly, what is around you – what products do you use to clean your home?

Organic equals prevention

The ‘In, On and Around’ concept invites a greater conversation about what ingredients are in the products you use and the food you eat, and how they were sourced or grown.

According to Drescher, supporting locally-sourced meat and produce from sustainable farms, ensuring everything is eco-friendly and organic can all help with the prevention of cancer.

By taking a stand and deciding to only use products that are grown naturally, organically and are eco-friendly, you’re putting your money where your mouth is. You are telling manufacturers there needs to be more accountability for the products they sell consumers, and as consumers, our purchasing habits send a clear message.

Consider this…

Some experts claim (and Drescher is of this camp) the mouth is the gateway to most health issues. A toothache is not always just a toothache. Because if what you eat has a direct correlation to your overall health, it makes sense that your oral health would be a beacon of sorts for the rest of your body.

A BALANCED OUTLOOK: For Fran Drescher, becoming more aware of everything from what she eats to how she cleans her home, has been vital in maintaining a positive attitude since being diagnosed with cancer.

Photo: Courtesy of CancerSchmancer.com

The other consideration she suggests: the connection between your gut, your immune system and stress. Our lifestyle – what we eat and our emotional wellbeing – impacts our immune system, so whenever we are stressed our immune system suffers. And when we eat poorly, our gut suffers.  
Ultimately, prevention takes in the whole health picture. Small changes to your lifestyle and diet can have positive health impacts down the line, ones that could be potentially life-saving.