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September 2023

Cervical Cancer Risk: The Mental Health Factor

Mental health touches nearly every part of our lives, affecting how we think, feel, and act. But did you know it can also influence our risk for physical illnesses? New research drives this point home for one serious condition: cervical cancer.

Behind the link

In a study of more than 4 million women, those with severe mental illness had more than double the risk for invasive cervical cancer. The reason why? Skipped screenings.

The Pap test and HPV test go a long way in helping prevent cervical cancer. However, you need screenings regularly to get the full benefit. And when you’re already coping with one serious diagnosis, it can be hard to keep tabs on other aspects of your health. That’s especially true when you live with a mental condition like depression, which can lead to forgetfulness and trouble concentrating.

Keep your care on track

To better manage both your mental and physical health:

  • Lean on your provider. Their office is a judgment-free zone. Share any and all concerns so your healthcare provider can help you find the treatment and support you need.

  • Get scheduling support. Feeling overwhelmed by making medical appointments? Ask a friend or family member to call for you, or have them help you schedule it online. They can also join you during your visit.

  • Jog your memory. When you do schedule a visit, note the date and time on your calendar. Don’t forget that you can also ask the provider’s office for a friendly call or email reminder.

Taking care of your body helps your mind—and vice versa. So even when it’s hard, know that every self-care step makes a difference!

Catch cancer early

Screening can find cervical pre-cancers early, before cervical cancer develops. The CDC recommends:

  • Women ages 21 to 29 get a Pap test every 3 years

  • Women ages 30 to 65 get a Pap test every 3 years, or an HPV test or HPV/Pap cotest every 5 years

  • Women ages 65 and older talk with their provider about stopping screening

Online Medical Reviewer: Brian McDonough, MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Ray Turley BSN, RN
Date Last Reviewed: 6/1/2023
© 2000-2024 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
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