VA Maryland Health Care System
Cervical Cancer Screenings Can Save Lives
Attention all women! You may want to consider scheduling a pap smear as part of your New Year's resolutions! January is Cervical Cancer Screening Month. A pap smear can find abnormal cells that may indicate cervical cancer. Screening for cervical cancer using the pap test has decreased the number of new cases of cervical cancer and the number of deaths due to cervical cancer since 1950.
The VA Maryland Health Care System encourages all women Veterans enrolled for VA health care to get tested for cervical cancer. Women aged 21 to 65, as well as those at high risk, are candidates for a cervical pap smear screening every one to three years. Detecting cervical cancer in its earliest stages greatly improves survival rates. More than 90 percent of women can survive cervical cancer when it is localized and caught early. Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection is the major risk factor for development of cervical cancer.
Other risk factors for cervical cancer include:
- Giving birth to many children.
- Having many sexual partners.
- Having first sexual intercourse at a young age.
- Smoking cigarettes.
- Having a weakened immune system.
- All women are at risk for cervical cancer, but it occurs most often in women over age 30.
Here are some ways to reduce cervical cancer risk:
- Limit the number of sexual partners and use condoms or diaphragms every time you have sex.
- Don't smoke.
- Get regular pap smears to detect any precancerous cells.
- If you are under 26, consider the HPV vaccination.
The good news:
- It is the easiest gynecological cancer to prevent with regular screening tests and follow up.
- It is highly treatable when found early.
Early detection can be lifesaving. For more information on cervical cancer or to schedule a pap smear, Veterans should contact the Women Veterans Clinic at 1-800-463-6295, extension 5090 or 5094. At the VA Maryland Health Care System's Women's Clinic, comprehensive primary, mental health and specialty health care services are available.