Women Avoiding Pap Smears, Study Says

Almost 40% of American women did not have a Pap smear in the past year, according to a study by the College of American Pathologists.

The national survey showed that although nearly 90% of women over 18 knew they should be tested for cervical cancer each year, many did not find the time to do it. Other reasons women cited for not getting the test were that they were “too old,” “embarrassed,” “afraid of the results,” that they disliked the doctor, or found the procedure too expensive. The study also revealed that older, poorer and less-educated women were least likely to have an annual gynecological exam. Almost half of all women over age 50 did not have a Pap smear in the past year, despite the fact that over half of all cervical cancers are discovered in older women. The researchers also found that about 40% of women did not know that cervical cancer develops over several years. “This is why an annual exam is critical: so that abnormalities can be caught and treated before they become cancerous,” the study said.

In a Pap smear, the doctor takes a sample of cells from the cervix to be examined by a lab, which checks the cells for abnormalities. Before the Pap test was developed after WWII, cervical cancer was the cancer most likely to kill American women. Since then, deaths from cervical cancer have dropped 70%. Today, 80% of the women who die of cervical cancer did not have a Pap smear for at least 5 years before their diagnosis.

To find out if the lab that analyzes your Pap smear test is accredited by the College of American Pathologists, call 1-800-LAB-5678.


Reuters - October 29, 1997

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