President & CEO, Planned Parenthood Los Angeles
You’re not alone if you’ve skipped cancer screenings. But taking the best possible care of yourself can 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.