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Breast and Cervical Screening--How Well Are We Doing?

Women are bombarded with information about annual mammograms and Pap smears...but how well are we doing?  A recent study in the Journal of Women's Health (6/01) looked at a group of nearly 200 women over 50 with heart disease who were already in a clinical trial.  The good news is that of these women, nearly 60% conducted monthly breast self-examinations, 67% had annual mammograms, 73% had yearly Pap smears, and 75% had clinical breast exams.  The bad news is the flip side-the percent of  women who didn't: 40% did not do monthly breast self exams, a third did NOT have annual mammograms, more than 25% did NOT have annual Pap smears, and 25% did NOT have annual clinical breast exams.  And these were women who all had access to health care.

These statistics fly in the face of other facts: in women over 50, annual mammograms reduce the risk of dying of breast cancer by more than 25%!  Even more impressive, annual Pap smears may reduce the risk of dying of cervical cancer by nearly 90%!!! 

The question has often been asked why more women don't have these simple, potentially life-saving tests. 

[The reasons are given vary from lack of transportation to lack of access to quality health care.  Financial reasons are often given.  Some women feel that screening is just not important or that the possible results are just too scary.]

Too often, it's because their health care providers failed to recommend them.  I want to put an end to that right now: I urge all women over 40 to have a yearly mammogram and all women over 18 to have a yearly Pap smear. 

For more information, click here.

Created: 8/29/2001  -  Donnica Moore, M.D.

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