Nearly half of young women are behind on life-saving screening

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May is Women’s Health Month but a recent study shows a disturbing trend when it comes to screening for one of the most preventable cancers in young women.

Robert DeBernardo, M.D., of Cleveland Clinic did not take part in the research, but said it shows that when it comes to cervical cancer screening, women in their twenties were most likely to miss important tests.

“What they found, was if you asked the question, ‘how many women that are between 21 and 29 have gotten Pap smear screening according to the new guidelines?’ And the answer is – roughly half,” he said. 

The study looked at data on more than 47,000 women.

Researchers found that while 64.6 percent of women between the ages of 30-65 were up-to-date on their cervical cancer screening, women in their twenties were lagging behind at 53.8 percent.

The guidelines for women in their twenties call for more frequent screenings, and change once a woman reaches age 30.

Dr. DeBernardo said screening is especially important for young women in their twenties because cervical cancer, when caught early, is very treatable.

He said one of the reasons for the discrepancy between age groups could be a result of the new guidelines being somewhat confusing for patients and healthcare providers.

Dr. DeBernardo said the bottom line is that it’s important for all women to see a doctor every year and take charge of their personal health.

“Women need to be empowered to understand that they’re responsible – not just for their child or their husband or their parent or their sibling – they’re responsible for their own health,” he said. “And going to the doctor should be all that’s required. If you show up to your family physician or your gynecologist, you should get the adequate screening.” 

Dr. DeBernardo recommends women ask their doctors for paper copies of all screening results, just in case of an unforeseen change in employment or insurance, so that they have their most recent health information in their hands.

Complete results of the study can be found in the Journal of Women’s Health.

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