A scary study released earlier this month shows a woman’s chances of dying from cervical cancer is higher than previously thought.
But don’t freak out.
The good news is the Center for Disease Control (CDC) says cervical cancer is preventable.
The study reveals that 4.7 out of 100,000 white women die from cervical cancer (up from 3.2). For African-American women, the rate jumps to 10.1 per 100,000 (up from 5.7).
Why the disparity between races?
Though the study doesn’t offer an explanation, many in the medical community say a lack of access to proper health screenings may be partly to blame.
“I have long known that health disparities exist between and among social groups,” says Dr. Jennifer Caudle. “This is not a new phenomenon and it is not unique to cervical cancer, but it still takes my breath away that racial disparities in health continue to be so robust.”
Cervical Cancer Screening is the Key to Preventing It
There are a few things you can do to lower your chance of getting cervical cancer, according to the American Cancer Society:
- Don’t smoke
- Avoid exposure to the human papilloma virus (HPV)
- Get the HPV vaccine
- Use condoms
The Office of Women’s Health, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, recommends women ages 21 to 65 should get regular Pap tests (also called Pap smears) to screen for early signs of cervical cancer.
Where to Find Affordable Cervical Cancer Screening
Most insurance plans cover the entire cost of Pap tests.
If yours doesn’t, or you don’t have health insurance at all, here are four affordable ways to get screened for cervical cancer.
If you qualify for Medicare Part B, you’re eligible for free cervical cancer screening once every 24 months.
Women at high risk for developing cervical cancer or are of childbearing age and have had an abnormal Pap test in the past 36 months are eligible for free screening once every 12 months.
2. Planned Parenthood
Here in Florida, a Pap test at Planned Parenthood will set you back $228.
The good news is most locations offer services on a sliding fee scale, based on your income. Qualification levels and procedure costs vary by state so contact your local Planned Parenthood office for details.
3. Community Health Clinics
Community health clinics across the country provide low- to no-cost women’s health services, including cervical cancer screening.
Use the U.S. Department of Health’s clinic locator to find a location near you.
4. CDC-Funded Cervical Cancer Screening Providers
The CDC underwrites the National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program to provide screenings to low-income, uninsured and underinsured women across the country.
Find a provider through the CDC’s interactive map.
What My Doctor Told Me About Cervical Cancer
Pap tests are no fun. I mean, could they be more undignified and awkward?
Please, though, don’t put it off.
I apologize in advance to my editors and actually the whole TPH office, but I’m about to talk about my cervix.
I always get annual Pap smears. A couple of years ago, my results came back abnormal and I completely freaked out because I was afraid it meant I had cervical cancer.
My doctor patiently explained to me cervical cancer isn’t something that comes on suddenly and kills you with no warning. It takes years and years to develop.
She told me there are lots of warning signs regular screenings can pick up. Treating those issues right away prevents people from developing cervical cancer down the road.
My doctor also pointed out that in her 20-year practice, the only women she’d treated for advanced cervical cancer were women who didn’t get regular Pap tests.
Fortunately, my follow-up tests came back negative.
In the end, my cervix and I were fine but I never forgot what she said about the importance of regular screening.
Pap tests are a drag, but the alternative is a lot worse. Check your insurance plan or use one of the options above to find out where to get screened for cervical cancer.
Then make that appointment.
Your turn: How much does a cervical cancer screening cost in your area?
Lisa McGreevy is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. She promises to only talk about her cervix when it’s really, really important.