Has it been a while since you had your last Pap test? If it’s been less than three years, then you’re not late at all! Experts now recommend that women over the age of 21 have a Pap test to check for precancerous cells on the cervix only once every three years. However, it is still important to see your midwife or gynecologist annually for a well-woman exam to check for other possible health issues.

With January being Cervical Cancer Awareness Month, it’s a good opportunity to learn more about this cancer, which is one of the most detectable, preventable and treatable types of cancer.

First, what causes cervical cancer? In the majority of cases — and there are about 12,000 cases every year in the US — the cancer is caused by the humanpapillomavirus, or HPV. This virus is primarily transmitted through sexual contact so any sexually active woman has a chance of carrying the virus.

How often should women be tested? Experts now recommend a Pap test once every three years starting at age 21. At age 25, which is when most cervical cancers are caught, a second test will be done simultaneously to check for HPV. If the tests show that a woman’s cervix is healthy, then she doesn’t need another pap for five more years. If anything suspicious shows up, the midwife or gynecologist might recommend further testing. Remember, the sooner cervical cancer is detected, the more readily it can be treated. The Centers for Disease Control has more details and facts about cervical cancer.

How can you help prevent cervical cancer? Don’t smoke, limit sex to one partner, schedule a well-woman exam every year, and make sure to have a Pap test every three years. If it’s been a while since you’ve seen a women’s health professional, give us a call. Our midwives will be happy to help you get back on track to good health and peace of mind: 727-216-1420.