Options – The Pap test is the most common way to screen for cervical cancer. Cells from the cervix obtained through a pelvic exam are tested for evidence of change. Another test gaining popularity is the HPV test, which looks for signs of the human papilloma virus, a sexually-transmitted disease that can cause cervical cancer and is also linked to a variety of other cancers in both men and women. The HPV virus can now be prevented through a vaccine, and many healthcare providers are recommending the vaccination for young people ages 9-26. Talk to your healthcare provider about it. The type of screening test you should get, and when you should get it, is dependent on your personal risk factors and family history. Learn how to identify your cancer risk factors here. For more information from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) about cervical cancer prevention and screening, click here.
Payment – Recommended cervical cancer screening tests are covered by insurance purchased through the Affordable Care Act, private insurance provided through your employer, Medicare or Medicaid. If you do not have coverage through one of these programs, contact the Every Woman Matters Program. If you are not eligible for that program, staff members or local community health workers can refer you to the State Pap Program or other programs operated by nonprofit organizations. To connect with local resources that can help you, click here.
Follow-up – It’s no use having a screening test if you do not follow-up if the test comes back “abnormal.” Don’t let the fear of a diagnosis or impending costs keep you from following-through. If you get an abnormal result and don’t know who to ask for help, contact the Lincoln Breast Cancer Alliance. Although the name says “breast cancer,” members of the Alliance are committed to helping anyone overcome barriers that stand in the way of prompt diagnosis and treatment. Remember, cancer caught early is often curable.
Warning signs – There are often no warning signs for cervical cancer so that is why regular screening is so important. If you notice bleeding or discharge from the vagina that is not normal for you, visit your doctor right away.