Cervical Cancer Awareness Month: 4000 Fatalities Annually
January is Cervical Health Awareness Month and for women across the nation, it is an important reminder to schedule an annual Pap smear exam. Thanks to the HPV vaccine and proper screenings, we are a nation on the verge of eliminating cervical cancer.
However, progress should never be confused with complacence. While there have been medical advancements, nearly 13,000 women in the United States are still diagnosed with cervical cancer each year and approximately 4000 will die from it. 4000 is a tremendous loss of life for a disease that is considered by the medical community to be virtually preventable.
4000 is the reason why cervical health awareness should be a critical part of the conversation this month and into the future. Why are so many women dying from cervical cancer? One reason is certainly that when women fail to get proper screenings, a late diagnosis can have fatal results. An annual Pap smear test is essential and women must make it a priority to schedule proper screenings.
Often women in low income or remote areas have limited access to screenings, timely treatment and follow up care. This month is a great time to think about whether there is someone in your life who may fall into that category. The Center for Disease Control has programs for breast and cervical cancer screenings and diagnostic services to aid low-come, uninsured and underinsured women across the country. If you or someone you know has been unable to access this critical health care, there are resources available that could be the difference between life and death. Think about the women in your life that you love, and take action to ensure they are prioritizing cervical health.
Another reason that is contributing to the cervical cancer fatality rate is failure to diagnose or medical misdiagnosis. There have been reported incidents where labs that are supposed to evaluate pap smear samples fail to report abnormalities that should lead to life saving medical care. These medical errors present a grave concern for the future of women’s health and is a significant factor in cervical cancer fatality rates. If a woman has been getting regular Pap tests and is diagnosed with cervical cancer or other abnormalities, there is a high chance that there was a misread Pap in the prior years. A missed or delayed diagnosis of cervical cancer can be grounds for a medical malpractice claim. A medical error by a lab can cost a woman critical time and significantly impact her survival rate.
Pap smear screenings are critical and while errors do occur, women should be vigilant about cervical health and ensure they get annual exams. Make sure you follow up with your doctor and ask them to review your lab results with you to reduce the incidence of errors. Take control of your health and make yourself a priority.
Here are 3 things you can do to take action now to prevent cervical cancer.
- Start the conversation. Talk to the women in your life about Cervical Health Awareness Month. Ask them if they prioritize cervical health?
- Schedule your annual exam. Call your doctor and confirm when you are due for a screening and get it scheduled today.
- Take stock of the people in your life. Is there anyone elderly, infirmed or disadvantaged that may have limited access to care? Offer to help them schedule their cervical cancer screening.