A smear for a smear: let’s talk about pap tests
For many women, having a pap test doesn’t even come close to the top on their list of priorities. But is should.
Women often opt out of a pap test because they find it unnecessary and are generally unaware of its implications. Some fear that the procedure will be painful, embarrassing, intrusive or uncomfortable. But by and large, women are simply unaware of the causes of cervical cancer and treatment options available.
When Temika Fedler was diagnosed with cervical cancer at age 25, it hit her like a ton of bricks. The diagnosis literally “rocked her world” and not in a musical way. Childless and still full of youth, she was robbed of her fertility and ability to conceive by the sexually transmitted human papillomavirus (HPV). Since then, Temika has been determined to raise awareness and educate women about cervical cancer screening.
“Today”, she says, “we have the tools to not only prevent cervical cancer, but also detect it. But women have to be proactive about their health. They need to be educated about these tools, because with these tools, we can end cervical cancer.”
Campaigns, such as the #SmearforSmear are crucial for raising awareness of cervical cancer, by encouraging women to be regularly screened. This particular campaign targeting younger women spreads the message about prevention by encouraging girls to share lipstick smear selfies on social media and nominate their friends to do the same.
Every year, cervical cancer causes almost 30,000 deaths to women in Europe. HPV infections can cause alterations in the cells of the cervix, creating abnormalities. Although, these infections often go away on their own, if they become severe they can develop into cancer.
Screening through smear tests can detect pre-cancerous abnormalities in the cervix’s cells at an early stage. It is for this reason that cervical cancer screening is so fundamental. Ensuring early diagnosis means that treatment plans are less extensive and side effects less serious. The detection and successful treatment of these abnormal cells can even prevent the manifestation of the cancer.
A newly developed HPV vaccine has shown to prevent up to 80% of cancers in women, freeing young girls from the phantom of infertility. Modern chemotherapy and radiation can target the cancer very precisely and thus limit damage to the rest of the organism, but certainly detection is the first step.