I have always dreaded getting “la prueba de Papanicolaou” or also known as “The Pap Smear” don’t we all? A year ago I faced the fact that it had been well over a year since my last test and I decided that because I was experiencing heavy periods that lasted over a week and that “visited” me every three weeks, maybe – just maybe I should go in for the dreaded experience… ugh, once again. It turned out that precancerous cells were detected through my pap smear. Jesus Santisimo! What in the world?! Okay, I’m 47 years old and I finished having my children, but this sudden invasion of my body and my womanhood was alarming. The simple fact that a little over a year prior I had received a clean pap – needless to say I was astonished! This means that what happened biologically inside of me to create these nasty cells, happened fast!
Now, here is the kicker – since my own diagnosis and treatment, I’ve learned that Latinas have the highest incidence of cervical cancer in the U.S.! Yes, among racial groups, Latinas beat white and black women according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and what makes this information even more alarming, is that cervical cancer is almost entirely preventable. Your pap test is one of the most effective ways of detecting cervical cancer EARLY and if detected early the 5 year survival rate for cervical cancer is almost 100 percent! Here is a quick anatomy check – the cervix is the lower, narrow portion of the uterus where it joins with the top end of the vagina. If you are sexually active – pap smears are a crucial part to your female health. Keep in mind that it has been noted by medical professionals that even if you are not engaging in sexual activity or if your partner is a woman – ALL women of ALL ages and especially once you are premenopausal, YOU need to take this portion of your health care VERY seriously.
So, here is the bottom line Latina – if you have a vagina and you are not a virgin, you need to make sure you get your dreaded “Papanicolaou!” Don’t allow fear of negative results or embarrassment (embarrassing to us all) get in your way. Finances can usually be overcome with great resources like Planned Parenthood or through the NCLR’s program “Mujer Sana, Familia Fuerte.” For example, low-cost or free services for cervical cancer screenings exist at places such as federally funded health centers or Title X family planning clinics. Pay attention Latina and get checked, your family NEEDS you! Y oye… Papi – get that woman in your life to go! There is nothing like being reminded of how much you love us!
For more information:
Planned Parenthood (http://www.plannedparenthood.org)
“Mujer Sana, Familia Fuerte” (http://www.nclr.org/index.php/issues_and_programs/health_and_nutrition/hispanic_health/sexual_and_reproductive_health/)
By Being Latino contributor, Veronica Pearman
Veronica Pearman is a Dominican/American writer living in St. Petersburg, FL. You can follow her on Twitter @VeronicaPearman.