Just as we are widening the circle of breast cancer awareness by promoting mammographies, so too is screening important for all women in the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).

When the AIDS virus first surfaced in 1980, it was specific to men. Today, it has ravaged the bodies of women and children alike.

Why is screening for all women so important? Consider the alternatives. With so many STDs being diagnosed today, some of which we know there is no known cure, why wouldn’t a women want to take every precaution against these deadly diseases?

Yet, here is a startling statement taken from D. Hollander’s Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, June 2005. “Routine STD screening of sexually active women aged 15-24, although recommended in federal guidelines, is uncommon in primary care visits at hospital based clinics: In 1997-2000, only 4% of such visits by women in this age-group who had no genitourinary symptoms included testing for an STD. Even when women of reproductive age report symptoms that could signal the presence of an STD, testing is infrequent; diagnostic tests were conducted in 13% of visits made by women reporting symptoms. Regardless of whether women were symptomatic, the likelihood of testing was elevated if the visit was for preventive care, and if the woman was younger than 25.”

Here is a true case. A woman in her late 50’s had been experiencing the following symptoms: hardness around the mid-section and vaginal pain. Instead of seeking treatment immediately, she waited. When she was finally diagnosed, she was in Stage IV of ovarian cancer. She hung on for two years. The cancer had spread to her brain and she succumbed.

Had she taken the time for a PAP test, or sought out an obstetrician immediately, should might have been saved. Although there is no cure for this disease, she may have been given treatment and more time in this life. HPV has been cited as the cause.

While researchers are working tirelessly to find cures for these diseases, apathy exists among some women who feel screening is not important. Breast Cancer awareness has become a major campaign, yet STDs and related diseases are barely mentioned.

We need to step up the education process on STDs for all women, but especially teens who are on a path to womanhood. Prevention is the key; keeping women informed as to the cause and effect of STDs is crucial. Screening IS important for all women in the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases. The warning signs are there; taking a pro-active stance is necessary for early detection. It’s time.

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