Health Victories News

Mammograms and Pap Smears: Crucial tools in the fight against silent killers

Collage of images showing cancer ribbons and women joining together to fight cancer
Written by Chris Curry

As breast and cervical cancer continue to impact countless lives across Georgia and South Carolina, medical experts underscore the life-saving significance of mammograms and pap smears in detecting these silent threats in earlier stages where the treatment options are plentiful, and the survival rate is higher. This is why the Georgia Cancer Center is emphasizing the pivotal role of these screenings in saving lives.

Breast cancer and cervical cancer, collectively affecting thousands of individuals each year in Georgia and South Carolina, often go unnoticed until they reach advanced stages. The American Cancer Society (ACS), in their Cancer Facts and Figures 2023 report, estimates 9,400 new cases of female breast cancer in Georgia, and nearly 500 new cases of cervix cancer. In South Carolina, ACS estimated 5,430 new cases of female breast cancer and 240 new cases of cervix cancer. Mammograms and pap smears offer an unparalleled opportunity for early detection of these two cancers for women.

“Mammograms are instrumental in detecting breast cancer before it becomes palpable,” said Dr. Robert Higgins, a professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the Medical College of Georgia and Georgia Cancer Center. “By identifying subtle changes in breast tissue with mammography, we can intervene with treatment options that have a significantly higher chance of success.”

Cervical cancer often can go unrecognized until women begin to experience significant vaginal bleeding. “Pap smears are a powerful tool,” Higgins said. “They help us detect abnormalities in cervical cells, enabling us to address potential issues before they progress to cancer.”

The statistics surrounding breast and cervical cancer in Georgia and South Carolina are sobering. According to recent data from the National Cancer Institute, breast cancer remains the most diagnosed cancer among women in both states. Similarly, cervical cancer continues to affect women across the region. Higgins has been a steadfast advocate for broader access to mammograms and pap smears, especially in underserved communities. “Every woman deserves the chance to protect her health,” Higgins asserts. “We must work to eliminate barriers that prevent individuals from receiving these crucial screenings.”

He, along with members of the Breast Cancer Care and Gynecologic Cancer Care teams at the Cancer Center encourage individuals to overcome any hesitations they might have. “Education and awareness play a critical role,” Higgins said. “I implore everyone to prioritize their health and recognize that these screenings are not just about detecting diseases; they are about preserving life and quality of life.”

While the statistics may seem daunting, there is a glimmer of hope within the data. “Survival rates for both breast and cervical cancer are notably higher when these cancers are detected early,” Higgins said. “By spreading the word about the importance of screenings, we can equip women with the tools to protect themselves and their loved ones.”

As the medical community continues to champion early detection, mammograms and pap smears remain the unsung heroes in this battle, offering the promise of a brighter and healthier future for all.