By Marta Welch
Special to The SUN
September is both National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month and Gynecologic Cancer Awareness Month — a good opportunity for women to schedule their well-woman exam and determine if they, or someone they love, are due for an important preventive health screening.
About 22,000 women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer each year in the U.S. About 12,000 American women are diagnosed with cervical cancer each year, and around 4,000 will die from the disease. The good news is that cervical cancer is one of the most preventable cancers and, when caught early, the five-year survival rate is nearly 100 percent.
Gynecological health is important at all stages of adult life. Cervical cancer can affect women before or after menopause and it’s never too late to start getting screened. Whether it’s for you, a friend, family member or partner, learn the risks of gynecologic cancers, including a family history of ovarian or breast cancer, and take steps to prevent and catch them early, when they are most treatable.
The earlier cancer is detected and treated, the better. The frequency for checkups is different for different women, but everyone should see their health care providers regularly. National medical guidelines call for initial Pap tests at age 21; Pap tests every three years for women aged 21–29; and Pap tests every three years for women aged 30-64 (or every five years when women 30-64 receive combined Pap and HPV tests). Women with certain abnormalities may require more frequent Pap tests, so confirm with your health care provider to see if you are due for a checkup and screening, and encourage your loved ones to do the same