Story by: Shari Lopatin, TRIWEST HEALTHCARE ALLIANCE
You might know getting regular Pap tests is the number one way to protect against cervical cancer … But are you at high risk?
Cervical cancer occurs most often in women older than 30 years old, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It used to be the leading cause of cancer death for American women. However, during the past 40 years, the number of deaths has dropped significantly.
This is all thanks to the Pap test, which Tricare covers.
A few factors, however, can increase your risk for cervical cancer and some are not well known.
RISK FACTORS FOR CERVICAL CANCER
• High number of full-term pregnancies: According to the National Cancer Institute, women who've had seven or more full-term pregnancies could have an increased risk of cervical cancer. The CDC lists that number as three or more children.
• Long-term use of birth control pills: Women who have used the pill for five years or more have a greater risk of cervical cancer, than women who don't use oral contraceptives, experts agree.
• Smoking: This is perhaps one of the greatest preventable risk factors of cervical cancer. Quitting smoking can cut your risk in half.
• HPV: Not to be confused with HIV … HPV stands for Human Papillomavirus, a common sexually transmitted virus. According to the CDC, about all cervical cancers are caused by HPV. Luckily, there is a vaccine, and it's covered by Tricare.
TRICARE AND PAP TESTS
Above all else, getting regular Pap tests remains the number one way to detect cervical cancer early enough for successful treatment. Tricare covers Pap testing every year, beginning at age 18 – or younger if sexually active. Then, after three consecutive normal tests, Tricare will cover a Pap test every three years, unless recommended otherwise by the doctor.
For more information on cervical cancer prevention, visit TriWest.com/prevention.