CARBONDALE — Representatives of the local American Cancer Society will be using the month of January to educate women about the importance of getting screened for cervical cancer.
Officials will be promoting annual Pap tests in women, as the screenings can help detect abnormalities early before they develop into cancer. The cervical cancer survival rate has increased to 70 percent because of these tests, according to ACS.
Cervical cancer rates in 13 Southern Illinois counties are higher than the state average, and the cancer society is suggesting the following guidelines for early detection of problems.
All women should begin cervical cancer testing (screening) about 3 years after they start having sex. A woman who waits until she is over 18 to have sex should start screening no later than age 21. A regular Pap test should be done every year. If a liquid-based Pap test is used instead, women should be tested every 2 years.
Beginning at age 30, many women who have had 3 normal Pap test results in a row may be tested less often every 2 to 3 years. Either the conventional (regular) Pap test or the liquid-based Pap test can be used.
Another reasonable option for women over 30 (who have normal immune systems and no abnormal Pap results) is to get tested every 3 years (but not more frequently) with a Pap test plus the HPV DNA test. The Pap test used can be either the regular or the liquid-based Pap test.
Women who have certain risk factors should continue getting tested yearly. This includes women exposed to diethylstilbestrol (DES) before birth, those with a history of treatment for a pre-cancer, and those with a weakened immune system (from HIV infection, organ transplant, chemotherapy, or chronic steroid use).
Women who have had a total hysterectomy (removal of the uterus and cervix) may choose to stop having cervical cancer testing, unless the surgery was done as a treatment for cervical cancer or pre-cancer. Women who have had a hysterectomy without removal of the cervix (a supra-cervical hysterectomy) need to continue cervical cancer screening. They should continue to follow the guidelines above.
Women 70 years of age or older who have had 3 or more normal Pap test results in a row and no abnormal Pap test results in the last 10 years may choose to stop having cervical cancer testing. Women with a history of cervical cancer, DES exposure before birth, HIV infection, or a weakened immune system should continue to have testing as long as they are in good health.
— The Southern Illinois chapter of the American Cancer Society contributed information for this article.