OWATONNA, Minn. — Cervical cancer is one of the most common types of cancer in women, with the American Cancer Society estimating that almost 14,000 new cases of invasive cervical cancer will be diagnosed in 2023. Of those cases, over 4,000 women will likely die from the disease.
Fortunately, precancerous cervical lesions are easy to diagnose with a Pap test, or cervical cancer screening, leading to better outcomes for treatment. But for many women, finding the time for a Pap test and other preventive health screenings can be a challenge.
Mayo Clinic Health System in Southeast Minnesota hopes to change that. Through the Saturday Pap Clinic, Family Medicine and Community Internal Medicine patients in Cannon Falls, Lake City, Owatonna and Red Wing can take advantage of convenient Saturday appointment times for cervical cancer screening.
The Saturday Pap Clinic, which launched through Mayo Clinic Primary Care in Rochester and Kasson in late 2021, has helped make cervical cancer screening more accessible by offering flexibility for women who might otherwise struggle with access to preventive care. Blood pressure checks, colon cancer screenings, breast cancer screenings and overdue labs also can be reviewed and scheduled during these appointments, offering patients an option to catch up on any routine health care needs.
Shannon Cliff, who oversees operations for Primary Care for Mayo Clinic Health System in Owatonna and Faribault, says the Owatonna clinic has already seen a positive response.
"Patients really appreciate how convenient the appointments are overall," Cliff says. "We're happy to meet this need for cervical cancer screening in our local community and hope to continue to offer Saturday appointments as long as there is patient demand."
Mayo Clinic recommends that women start cervical cancer screenings at age 21 with a test every three years until age 29, then a test every five years through age 65.
"We know that the earlier we can identify cancerous cells on the cervix, the better treatment outcomes will be for our patients," says Brittany Strelow, D.M.Sc., a physician assistant who leads project efforts. "We also know that finding time to schedule a cervical cancer screening can be tough for many women who are juggling a full workweek along with family schedules. By expanding appointment availability to Saturdays, we're hoping to eliminate at least one barrier to scheduling these important screenings."
Staffed by advanced-practice professionals with a passion for preventive and women's health, the Saturday Pap Clinic was created in response to a survey that asked female patients what barriers they encountered in completing their cervical cancer screening. Appointment availability was the most notable issue, followed by fear or anxiety about the procedure itself.
"I think Saturday appointments have been successful because many providers can relate to our patients' needs in this area," says Strelow. "We're also balancing work with family obligations, so we know flexibility is important."
Those staffing the clinic also walk patients through what to expect and relate to them on a personal level. "We want patients to feel like they're in an environment where people are putting in the extra effort to help things go smoothly," says Strelow.
Patients in Cannon Falls, Lake City, Owatonna and Red Wing can call their primary care clinics to make Saturday appointments on upcoming clinic dates at these locations:
About Mayo Clinic Health System
Mayo Clinic Health System has a physical presence in 44 communities and consists of 53 clinics, 16 hospitals and other facilities that serve the health care needs of people in Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin. The community-based healthcare professionals, paired with the resources and expertise of Mayo Clinic, enable patients in the region to receive the highest-quality physical and virtual healthcare close to home.