New York, NY — September is National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month and Gynecologic Cancer Awareness Month and Planned Parenthood urges women to check in with their health care provider to see if they are due for a checkup or cancer screenings, and to encourage the women in their lives to get screened, too. Last year, a national survey from NORC at the University of Chicago and Planned Parenthood exploring what women know about cancer screenings found that the vast majority of women do not know when or how often they should get screened for cervical cancer — even if they think they do.
The survey also showed that too many women aren’t getting their recommended cancer screenings — especially Black and Hispanic women. The unfortunate reality is that women of color in the U.S. face more barriers to accessing health care than white women; as a result, they are less likely to get preventive screenings, they are more likely to be diagnosed at later stages, and they are more likely to experience worse health outcomes when it comes to breast and cervical cancer because of these barriers.
“Regular checkups and cancer screenings are essential for staying healthy — whether you are straight, bi, or lesbian, cisgender or transgender,” said Dr. Raegan McDonald-Mosley, Chief Medical Officer at Planned Parenthood Federation of America. “Anyone with a cervix can develop cervical cancer. Planned Parenthood's doors are open to everyone — regardless of gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation. We believe that all people deserve high-quality, affordable health care and accurate, nonjudgmental sexual health information, no matter who they are or where they live.”
The earlier ovarian cancer is detected and treated, the better. Know your risk factors, including family histories of ovarian or breast cancer. Ovarian cancer is the deadliest gynecologic cancer in women in the U.S., so you should be aware of the possible symptoms. These can include bloating, pelvic or abdominal pain or pressure, difficulty eating or feeling full quickly, or having to urinate often or urgently. These symptoms can also be due to other medical problems, so you should talk to a health care provider when these symptoms are a change from what is normal for you and if you start having them every day for several weeks.
Cervical cancer is one of the most preventable cancers. As many as 93 percent of cervical cancers could be prevented by screening and HPV vaccination, and when caught early, the five-year survival rate for cervical cancer is 93 percent. Cervical cancer is caused by certain types of HPV, or human papillomavirus, a very common sexually transmitted infection. In most cases, the body’s immune system clears HPV naturally — but high-risk HPV sometimes leads to cervical cancer. While there is no cure for HPV, there is treatment, available at some Planned Parenthood health centers, for the abnormal cell changes in the cervix that are caused by HPV. The HPV vaccine is one of the best ways to prevent the spread of HPV, and it is safe and supported by leading medical organizations.
“Planned Parenthood knows firsthand how important cancer screenings are,” added Dr. McDonald-Mosley. “As an expert provider of women's health care, Planned Parenthood is here to help you and your loved ones understand how to best take care of your health and body, and to get you the care you need.”
Planned Parenthood understands that people can put off cancer screenings due to time, cost, or anxiety, or because they don’t know when they’re due for a screening. Friends and family can help by talking about the importance of early detection and sharing information on where to go for an exam, such as a Planned Parenthood health center.
You can rely on Planned Parenthood for accurate, caring, and expert information and health care, including HPV vaccines, Pap tests and other cancer screenings, birth control, and testing and treatment for STIs. One in five women turns to Planned Parenthood at some time in her life for health care, and Planned Parenthood health centers provide more than 320,000 lifesaving breast exams each year at health centers across the country. n 2015, Planned Parenthood health centers provided nearly 300,000 Pap tests and more than 22,000 HPV vaccinations.
Thanks to the Affordable Care Act’s preventive health benefits, more women have access to routine well-woman exams and cervical cancer screenings without copays or other out-of-pocket expenses. And whether you have insurance or not, you can always come to Planned Parenthood. For more information, visit PlannedParenthood.org.
Planned Parenthood is the nation’s leading provider and advocate of high-quality, affordable health care for women, men, and young people, as well as the nation’s largest provider of sex education. With more than 600 health centers across the country, Planned Parenthood affiliates serve all patients with care and compassion, with respect and without judgment. Through health centers, programs in schools and communities, and online resources, Planned Parenthood is a trusted source of reliable health information that allows people to make informed health decisions. We do all this because we care passionately about helping people lead healthier lives.