Cervical Cancer Awareness Month: Why Pap Tests are Important and Screening Options in Illinois

woman with shaved head

Cervical cancer is one of the most serious public health threats faced by women in the United States. Almost 13,000 women are estimated to be diagnosed with the disease each year, and more than 4,000 women will pass away from cancer's effects in any given year. About 36% of those who are diagnosed will die within 10 years.

However, there is hope – early detection significantly improves odds of recovery.

The numbers are staggering: When detected at an early stage, the five-year cervical cancer survival rate is 92%.

That's why women, no matter what their health or background, need to pursue screening.

Cervical Cancer Screening is the Key to Protecting Yourself
Without getting a screening for cervical cancer, you may not even know you have it until it has had months – or years – to progress. There might be no symptoms at all in the early stages, so a pap test should be a part of your preventive healthcare.

Some symptoms of cervical cancer include:

  •     Pain in the pelvis, which may be particularly intense during sexual intercourse;
  •     Abnormal menstruation, which can include irregular or heavy menstruation;
  •     Vaginal bleeding or abnormal vaginal discharge with no other medical cause;
  •     Nausea, fatigue or unexplained weight loss.

Unfortunately, the early symptoms of cervical cancer easily can be misdiagnosed as something else. Even when all of the symptoms are apparent, there are many other conditions that might produce some or all of them. Only a cancer screening can clear things up for sure.

Cervical Cancer Screening is Widely Available in Illinois
At SwedishAmerican Hospital, we take women's health issues seriously. We're committed to making it easier for women from all walks of life to access the life-saving care they need. With proactive cancer screenings, women are more likely to live long and healthy lives.

We offer affordable screenings for cervical and breast cancer.

Illinois women with limited income may qualify for free cancer screenings through the Illinois Breast and Cervical Cancer Program operated by the Illinois Department of Public Health. Since the mid-1990s, the program has provided mammograms, breast and cervical exams and pap tests.

Women aged 35 to 64 years old who are living in Illinois and do not currently have insurance may qualify. In some cases, younger women can also qualify.

Remember: Cervical cancer is treatable if detected early. This Cervical Cancer Awareness Month, protect your heath by getting a cancer screening.