Cervical cancer is cancer that starts in the cervix. The majority of cervical cancers are caused by human papillomavirus (HPV).
Once one of the most common causes of cancer death in American women, the incidence of cervical cancer declined significantly thanks to early screening.1 This screening, most often referred to as your Pap smear, typically takes place at your annual or well-woman exam. Unfortunately, over the past few years, screening has been on the decline and cervical cancer rates are back on the rise.
Following the start of the pandemic, cervical cancer screening dropped by 94 percent and remained 35 percent below pre-pandemic levels even after stay-at-home restrictions were lifted. The HPV vaccination, one of the strongest tools we have for preventing cervical cancer, also saw rates decline by more than 70 percent in March 2020.2
According to the American Cancer Society, cervical cancers rarely occur in women who have been getting regular tests to screen for cervical cancer.1 Screening saves lives, yet preventable diagnoses and deaths are still happening. Lack of awareness and education, shame, fear, and access to quality healthcare with a trusted provider are just a few of the many reasons women avoid routine screening.
Additionally, the method for screening has remained the same over the years. The inconveniences of going to a doctor’s office for a cervical cancer screening test include, but are certainly not limited to: time, geography, and the perceived and actual discomfort of screening exams.
We cannot let these factors continue to impede all of the progress that’s been made in women’s health—especially for a disease that is so preventable.