What Latinas Need to Know About Cervical Cancer

By Marcela Vargas, Project Coordinator, Institute for Hispanic Health, NCLR

CervicalCancerAwarness

January is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month. It is particularly important to us here at NCLR because of the impact it has on the Latina community. In 2011, Latina women had the highest rate of cervical cancer out of all racial and ethnic groups. In the same year, Latinas had the second-highest death rate due to cervical cancer out of the same groups. The sad reality about these rates is that they could very easily decrease if we took more time to worry about preventive health. With that in mind, here are three things you should know about cervical cancer:

  1. All women can get cervical cancer. While all women are at risk for cervical cancer, certain factors can increase the chances of getting the disease. Having HIV or a condition that weakens the immune system puts you at higher risk for getting cervical cancer. In addition, smoking or having used birth control pills for at least five years also increase the risk. Lastly, women who have given birth to three or more children are more likely to develop cervical cancer.
  2. Cervical cancer does not always cause symptoms. Many times, we do not think to go to the doctor until we are not feeling well. In the case of cervical cancer, we cannot take this risk. It often does not cause any symptoms. In the rare cases that it does, symptoms do not occur until the disease is in its advanced stages.
  3. There are ways to prevent cervical cancer. There are several ways to protect yourself. Regular Pap tests help catch cervical cancer when treatment is still simple. It is also important to follow up with your health care provider if your Pap test results come back abnormal. Using condoms during sexual activity and not smoking will also help protect you from cervical cancer.

The good news about all of this is that there are resources for women to get themselves screened. In 2015, as a result of the Affordable Care Act, Pap tests are covered by insurance companies at no cost to you. If you still do not have insurance, the National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program provides access to cervical cancer screening services.

What is a Pap test?

By: Marcela Vargas, Project Coordinator, Institute for Hispanic Health, NCLR

Lamina 17 - patient and clinicianLast week, as part of Cervical Cancer Awareness Month, we posted a blog “Three things to know about cervical cancer”. One of the best ways to prevent cervical cancer is getting regular Pap tests.  Pap tests help find abnormal cervix cells when treatment is still fairly simple.  This week, we are going to talk about what exactly happens when you get a Pap test.

Before the Pap test

There are a few things to consider when you schedule your Pap test. First, you should schedule your appointment for a day in which you will not have your period. Second, avoid using creams, gels, or other vaginal medication for two days before the test.  Finally, avoid sexual activity for two days before the test.  Following these guidelines increases the chance of accurate Pap test results.

When you arrive at the doctor’s office, a health care provider will ask you some questions about your health history.  He or she will ask questions about your general health, period, and your sexual activity. This will help them decide what kind of care is right for you.  Feel free to be as honest as you can when answering these questions; anything shared is kept between you and them.

During the Pap test

The provider will leave the room for a moment, to let you change into an examination gown.  Once you have changed, they will ask you to lie on an exam table, with a sheet covering your legs and stomach. The health care provider will use a speculum to keep the vaginal walls open. This is done so they can see the cervix. They will use a small brush to get sample cells from the cervix. When this is happening, you may feel a small scrape.  You may feel a bit uncomfortable, but this should not be painful. The sample is then placed in a tube and sent to a lab for testing. This test determines if the cells are normal or not. The whole process only takes a few minutes.

After the Pap test

A few weeks after the test, the clinic will contact you by phone or mail with your results.  If you do not receive the results and it has been three weeks since your test, call the clinic and ask for the results.  If your results are normal, you should continue getting your regular Pap tests.  You can ask your health care provider how often they recommend you get tested.  If the results are abnormal, you will be asked to return to the clinic for another test.  The clinic will explain what happens next and inform you if the second test has abnormal results.

Once you know exactly what happens during a Pap test, it is much easier to go through the process. Remember, as a result of the Affordable Care Act, Pap tests are covered by insurance companies at no cost to you.  If you still do not have insurance, the National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program provides access to cervical cancer screening services.  Although this is the last week of Cervical Cancer Awareness Month, you can get your Pap test at any time.  Your life is precious.  Get yourself tested!  Continue reading

Three Things to Know About Cervical Cancer

By Marcela Vargas, Project Coordinator, Institute for Hispanic Health, NCLR

LatinasLaughing_smaller

The New Year is here and everyone is trying to stick to their New Year’s Resolutions.  I have had countless conversations with friends about their decisions  to eat healthier and go to the gym more often.  In fact, many New Year’s resolutions revolve around getting healthier. However, it is important that we not forget about preventive health in our quest to eat more veggies and to hit the gym..  This month is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month.  It is particularly important to us here at NCLR because of the impact it has on the Latina community.  Latina women have the second highest rate of cervical cancer out of all racial and ethnic groups. Latinas also have the second highest death rate due to cervical cancer out of these same groups. The sad reality about these rates is that they could very easily decrease, if we took more time to worry about preventive health.  With that in mind, here are three things you should know about cervical cancer:

1.      All women can get cervical cancer. While all women are at risk for cervical cancer, certain factors can increase the chances of getting the disease.  Having HIV or a condition that weakens the immune system puts you at higher risk for getting cervical cancer.  In addition, smoking or having used birth control pills for at least five years also increase the risk.  Lastly, women who have given birth to three or more children are more likely to develop cervical cancer.

2.      Cervical cancer does not always cause symptoms. Many times, we do not think to go to the doctor until we are not feeling well.  In the case of cervical cancer, we cannot take this risk.  It often does not cause any symptoms.  In the rare cases that it does, symptoms do not occur until the disease is in its advanced stages.

3.      There are ways to prevent cervical cancer. There are several ways to protect yourself.  Regular Pap tests help catch cervical cancer when treatment is still simple.  It is also important to follow-up with your health care provider if your Pap test results come back abnormal.  Not smoking and using condoms during sexual activity will also help protect you from cervical cancer.

The good news about all of this is that there are resources for women to get themselves screened.  In 2014, as a result of the Affordable Care Act, Pap tests are covered by insurance companies at no cost to you.  If you still do not have insurance, the National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program provides access to cervical cancer screening services.  Still unsure of what a Pap test is?  Next week, we’ll learn more about what it is and how it is performed.  Stay tuned!