Cervical and vaginal cancers are very serious conditions that can be difficult to catch. In order to treat cervical cancers effectively, women should receive regular screenings – when caught early, doctors can treat cervical cancer and dramatically increase the patient’s chances of recovery.
Unfortunately, many women over the age of 65 choose to not have pap smears, which puts them at risk. The reason many forgo pap smears is that they do not realize that the risk of developing cervical cancer is still present as they age.
In fact, according to the American Cancer Society, “More than 20% of cases of cervical cancer are found in women over 65. However, these cancers rarely occur in women who have been getting regular tests to screen for cervical cancer before they were 65.”
Cervical and vaginal cancers are both cancers that affect women. Cervical cancer is much more common and happens when cancerous cells start to grow in the lower part of the uterus. Cervical cancer is often linked to HPV or human papillomavirus.
HPV is a very common sexually transmitted infection (STI) that often doesn’t show any symptoms but can lead to cervical cancer over time when left unaddressed.
Vaginal cancer is much less common and happens when cancerous cells form in the vagina or birth canal. It is very rare for vaginal cancer to develop on its own. Typically, vaginal cancer happens when the cancerous cells spread there from another part of the body.
There are a number of factors that put you at a higher risk for developing cervical cancer. The biggest risk factor is having many sexual partners, as this increases your chances of contracting HPV. Contracting other STIs, such as gonorrhea, chlamydia, HIV, or syphilis can also increase your chances of contracting HPV.
Those who smoke are also at a much higher risk of developing cervical cancer or any other type of cancer. You’ll also be at a higher risk if you have a chronic health condition that weakens your immune system. A weakened immune system will make you more vulnerable to HPV and other conditions that put you at risk for cancer.
While you can’t entirely prevent cervical cancer, there are things you can do to reduce your chances of developing it. If you smoke, talk to your doctor about steps you can take to quit. When you have sex, use a condom to reduce your risk of contracting HPV. You should also make sure to have routine health screenings so you can catch problems as they arise.
Medicare Part B covers bi-yearly Pap tests and pelvic exams to screen for cervical and vaginal cancer. If you are at high risk for cervical cancer, they will cover these exams every year. As long as your doctor accepts assignment, you won’t pay anything for these lab tests.
If you have Medicare Advantage, you will likely also receive coverage for cancer screenings – check your plan for more details.
Cervical cancer can be deadly if it isn’t treated right away, so it’s important to get screenings regularly and catch it early.
Do you go for your pap smears regularly? Has the pandemic stopped you from going for your regular screenings? Do you know if your insurance plan covers you for cancer screenings? Please share with the community