Cervical Cancer Screening
Cervical cancer is one cancer that may be detected early with regular screening. Screening can prevent cervical cancer by finding abnormal (precancerous) changes in the cells of the cervix so that they can be treated before they become cancerous. When cervical cancer is detected early, it can be treated successfully.
Cervical Cancer Risk Factors
Risk factors that may increase a woman’s chance of having cervical cancer include:
- Human papilloma virus infection
- Chlamydia infection
- Being overweight
- Multiple full-term pregnancies
- Young age at the first full-term pregnancy
- Family history of cervical cancer
Also, there are many women who exhibit no risks and still may develop cervical cancer. Therefore, it is recommended that every woman should have regularly scheduled Pap tests.
The Papanicolaou test or Pap test (also called Pap smear, cervical smear, or smear test), is a screening test that detects abnormal, precancerous and cancer cells in the cervix. If cervical cancer is caught early, patients are more likely to be treated and survive the disease. Patients who have an abnormal Pap test require additional diagnostic tests, including colposcopy and biopsy.
Who should have a pap test?
Based on the recommendations of the American Cancer Society:
- Women should begin having annual Pap tests about 3 years after first having vaginal intercourse but no later than 21 years of age.
- Beginning at age 30, women who have three consecutive annual Pap tests with normal results may be screened once every 2 to 3 years.
- Beginning at age 70, women who have three or more consecutive annual Pap tests with normal results and who have not had any abnormal results in the last 10 years may choose to stop having Pap tests.
Patient Education Tools
These videos were developed by the Community Network for Cancer Prevention (CNCP) to educate patients about cervical cancer screening and to improve cervical cancer screening rates in the Harris Health System.
Patients in the Harris Health System who are eligible for a Pap test are identified by an alert from the health-maintenance module in the electronic medical record system. Eligible patients are given the opportunity to view a brief educational video about cervical cancer screening in English, Spanish, or Vietnamese before visiting with their physician. Each video, developed by the CNCP, is culturally and linguistically appropriate for African-American, white, Hispanic, and Vietnamese women.
Because the patient selects the video she prefers to watch, selection data can be used to analyze whether Pap test screening rates will improve, patient knowledge about cervical cancer screening will increase, and patient attitudes about cervical cancer screening will change.
All of the videos can be viewed online.
For additional information on cervical cancer and cervical cancer screening, visit the American Cancer Society Web site.