What measurement means for cervical cancer screening

Cancer occurs when cells in a certain part of the body begin to grow out of control and form tumors that invade normal tissue. Many of these cells can be detected prior to or soon after they become cancerous, which is why screenings are critically important to staying healthy. High quality care to prevent cervical cancer includes regular Pap tests (also known as Pap smears) to screen for these cells, particularly in women who are between age 24 and 64.

Cervical cancer is unique because both its primary cause and how to prevent it are known by the medical community. The primary cause of cervical cancer is a persistent infection from the human papilloma virus (HPV) and the prevention for it is the HPV vaccine as well as regular Pap tests (also known as Pap smears), with treatment of any abnormalities found. The HPV vaccine protects women from the infection that causes about 70% of cervical cancers.

Cervical cancer used to be one of the most common causes of cancer death for women; however, the rate has declined almost 70% since 1955 due to increase use of the Pap test. The Pap test can find changes in the cells in a woman’s cervix before they become cancerous and at very early stages, when it’s the most curable – which is why cancer screening is so important. Cervical cancer tends to occur in midlife, with most cases found in women older than 20 and younger than 50. However, the risk of developing cervical cancer is still present as women age. About 20% of cases are detected in women after age 65.

The statewide rate of cervical cancer screening by all reporting medical groups is 78%. This means 78 of 100 women between the ages of 21 and 64 in Minnesota and neighboring areas had appropriate screening for cervical cancer:

  • Women age 21–64 who had a Pap test (cervical cytology) performed every 3 years.
  • Women age 30–64 who had a Pap test (cervical cytology) and testing for human papillomavirus (HPV) performed every 5 years.

High rates of cervical cancer screening can be a sign of strong clinic performance in cancer prevention and treatmentIt’s important to know that small differences in percentages don’t necessarily reflect the quality of care you’ll receive with a certain medical group or clinic. It is more important to note the large differences between providers, and speak with your doctor if you have questions or concerns..

HOW WE CALCULATE THE MEASURE

We measure how well medical groups perform in making sure their patients between ages 21 to 64 had received appropriate screening for cervical cancer:

  • Women age 21–64 who had a Pap test (cervical cytology) performed every 3 years.
  • Women age 30–64 who had a Pap test (cervical cytology) and testing for human papillomavirus (HPV) performed every 5 years.

This measure is evaluated annually. The current data is based on information collected from the billing data of health plans for 2014 dates of service. This information is collected under the measure name Cervical Cancer Screening for Ages 21-64.