My first awareness of cervical cancer came when my grandmother was diagnosed with it in the early 1950s. She underwent a hysterectomy followed by radiation treatments, and she lived an active life for another 20 years. It was not until I was researching pap smears for this column that I realized she owed those additional decades of life to having been among the earliest women to obtain a Pap smear.
A Pap smear test is essentially a cancer screening. It is a simple medical test performed on a woman’s cervix to check for signs of any abnormalities such as pre-malignant or malignant (cancer) cells. Detecting abnormalities can lead to interventions that help prevent cervical cancer.
History of Pap testing
Pap smears are named for George Papanikolaou, a Greek scientist who emigrated to the US in 1914. He is credited with founding cytopathology research, which studies and diagnoses diseases on the cellular level. Papanikolaou concluded in 1928 that cervical cancers could be detected by analysis of cells from a cervical smear, but it wasn’t until the late 1940s that the validity of this test gained acceptance, and the lack of labs capable of reading the tests meant that by the early 1960s only 10% of women in the US were being screened regularly. As regular pap testing increased, cervical cancer deaths rapidly declined. Once one of the most common causes of cancer deaths for American women, over the last 50 years the cervical cancer death rate has gone down by more than 50%. Over these decades, protocols for scheduling Pap tests have evolved to include many factors such as age, family history, and history of presence of HPV (Human Papillomavirus).
Importance of Women’s Annual Exams
What has not changed is strong consensus on the importance of women’s annual health screenings. In your annual well exam, your practitioner will assess family history, other risk factors, and newly evolving conditions to provide an exam tailored to you. Says our Certified Physician Assistant Linda Candiotti, “Your practitioner will guide you to appropriate preventative testing according to your individual needs and preferences.”
Our highly skilled and compassionate medical staff is led by Medical Staff Director Dr. Mylene Rucker. Along with Linda Candiotti, our staff also includes Certified Family Nurse Practitioners Barbara Hayes and Sarah Beach. All of them work diligently via research and attendance at relevant classes to stay abreast of new standards of care in women’s preventative healthcare as well as all the other areas of their practices.
Our Well Exam Promotion for Prevention
We encourage all women to check their own records or call your clinic to see if you are due for your annual well exam. To promote health and wellness in our community, if we see you for your well exam and a Pap test is performed any time from now through the end of January 2018, your name will be entered for a chance to win a $20 Renner Gift Card or $20 in “Chamber Bucks” to use at any participating local business.
To schedule your appointment, call (707) 923-3925, ext. 221.
Barbara Truitt, Foundation Director, Southern Humboldt Community Healthcare District
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