Don´t wait to get your annual Pap smear

By: Jacqueline Whitmore (USA)

It was July 2001, I was a contestant in the Mrs. Florida Pageant. At 36-year-old, I was in the best shape of my life. (Or so I thought.)

With the hustle and bustle of getting ready for the competition, starting a new business, and being a busy wife, I wasn’t thinking about my health.

But a few months earlier, while on a business trip to Canyon Ranch Wellness Resort in Tucson, AZ, one of the nurses asked me, “When was your last Pap smear?”

Honestly, I couldn´t remember.

I suddenly realized it had been four years since my last well-woman exam.

This nurse looked concerned and encouraged me to get tested as soon as I returned home.

Three months later, I finally made an appointment to see my gynecologist. Days later, I got a phone call from my doctor. “Jacqueline, your Pap test came back ‘abnormal.’ You have adenocarcinoma in situ,” she said regretfully.

My mind went blank. My body numb.

I don’t recall what she said after that. All I knew is that I had the early stages of cervical cancer.

My doctor recommended that I see an oncologist immediately. I had a LEEP cone biopsy, followed by a colposcopy, but the final test results were not favorable. The oncologist recommended that I get a hysterectomy.

I scheduled my surgery with an oncologist at the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, FL.

Thankfully, no radiation or chemo was necessary. Today I am still cancer-free!

More than 14,000 women in the US are diagnosed with invasive cervical cancer each year, but the disease is preventable with vaccination and appropriate screening.

January is Cervical Health Awareness Month and I want to encourage you to get your annual Pap test. Also, don’t forget to ask for a human papillomavirus (HPV) test. This is the virus that causes almost all cases of cervical cancer.

Please don’t wait. Just do it. It might save your life like it did mine.

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