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Pap Smears Help Prevent Cervical Cancer

From the Show: HER
Summary: More than 12,000 American women will be diagnosed with cervical cancer this year, and more than 4,000 will die of it.
Air Date: 12/4/14
Duration: 10
Host: Michelle King Robson and Pamela Peeke, MD
Guest Bio: Vicki Benard, PhD
benard Vicki Benard, PhD, is an epidemiologist and team lead in the Division of Cancer Prevention and Control's (DCPC) Epidemiology and Applied Research Branch. Her research focuses on cervical cancer and human papillomavirus (HPV). She leads an educational intervention study examining HPV co-testing in Federally Qualified Health Centers in the Illinois Breast and Cervical Cancer Program.

Dr. Benard did her undergraduate work in statistics and math at the University of South Alabama, and earned her doctorate in biometry and epidemiology from the Medical University of South Carolina. She first joined DCPC in 1998 as a contractor
working with the National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program (NBCCEDP) toconduct a needs assessment of epidemiologic capacity in cancer control. Two years later, she became a staff epidemiologist.

Much of her research has examined cervical cancer control and screening practices within the NBCCEDP, and she is well published on these issues.
Pap Smears Help Prevent Cervical Cancer
Cervical cancer is a cancer that develops in the tissues of a woman's cervix (the organ that connects your uterus and vagina). According to the National Cancer Institute, cervical cancer is a slow-growing cancer that doesn't always show symptoms but is almost always caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV) infection.

The most common ways to prevent cervical cancer is by getting regular pap smears and a tests for HPV. In most cases, when these two tests are preformed, cervical cancer can be caught early and treated.

However, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as many as eight million adult women from the ages of 21-65, who should be screened for cervical cancer, haven't had a checkup in the past five years.

Why is this?

When researchers were looking back on their findings, it crossed their minds that maybe these women didn't have insurance or access to a doctor. But, this was not the case. Seven out of 10 women had insurance and a primary care doctor.

Other possibilities could be lack of education, access to the screenings (maybe these women's doctors aren't offering the screenings), and cultural differences. Another reason could be the controversy surrounding the HPV shot. Even though it is highly recommended for both girls and boys between the ages of 11 and 13, many parents fear that this will encourage sexual behavior. It's important to know that the HPV shot needs to be given prior to sexual behavior in order to be effective.

What else do you need to know about cervical cancer prevention and why it's important to get screened?

Epidemiologist and team lead in the Division of Cancer Prevention and Control's (DCPC) Epidemiology and Applied Research Branch, Vickie Benard, PhD, discusses the results from a national survey regarding women's check-ups and why getting screened for cervical cancer is so essential to a woman's health.
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