For many of us, we prioritize the health needs of others before our own. Given the past two years, most of us haven’t attended our annual checkups: 38% of those who identified as women skipped preventive health services like yearly checkups or routine tests during the first year of the pandemic, and 23% skipped a recommended medical test or treatment, as reported by the Kaiser Family Foundation.
“It’s understandable that the pandemic has caused patients to hesitate to visit their gynecologists’ offices,” said Karla Loken, D.O., OB-GYN, FACOOG, U.S. disease area partner at Roche Diagnostics. “But it’s so important to maintain those routine visits – even now. Your screening test and pelvic exam can help detect abnormal cells that could lead to problems down the road.”
Around 93% of cervical cancers could be prevented by screening and human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). “Early detection and diagnosis offer the best chance for successful treatment, so don’t skip those appointments!” Loken said. “Screening truly can prevent cervical cancer.”
This applies to anyone who has a cervix. Many transgender men and nonbinary people assigned female at birth have reported barriers to care due to stigma, discrimination or healthcare providers with limited health knowledge about trans people. “Care today has improved and is more informed," Loken said. "Most OB-GYN and primary care providers are trained to address concerns for any patient with a cervix. Specialized centers also exist for patients to obtain care that is sensitive to their comprehensive care and needs.”
Give your doctor’s office a call and get a new visit on the calendar.
Even if you’re pregnant, you should get routine cervical cancer screening.
Check your insurance before your scheduled visit to determine if your employer provides wellness incentives for pelvic and annual exams.
Schedule your next annual before leaving the doctor's office.
Your sexual history
Your gender identity
Your mental and physical health concerns
Bleeding after sexual intercourse
Menstrual problems or bleeding between periods
Abnormal pap smears in the past
HPV vaccination status
History of positive HPV test results
Your doctor uses all this information to get the most accurate and appropriate tests done, which can help avoid overtesting and unnecessary procedures.
Here are a few of the tests your doctor may request:
A Pap test looks for abnormal cells on the cervix that can indicate early signs of cancer.
Cotesting, refers to a combined Pap smear and HPV test.
HPV primary screening genotype screening starts with an HPV test, and then is followed by additional testing if needed.
Karla Loken, D.O., OB-GYN, FACOOG, is board certified in OB-GYN and is a U.S. disease area partner for Roche medical and scientific affairs (MSA).
Liza Kunz, M.D., OB-GYN, MFM, FACOG, is board certified in OB-GYN and maternal-fetal medicine and is a U.S. disease area network lead for Roche MSA.