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Cancer, women, and public health: the history of screening for cervical cancer

Câncer, mulheres e saúde pública: a história do exame para câncer cervical

Cytological screening for cervical cancer (the Pap smear), the first attempt at mass screening for a human malignancy, is often presented as a non-problematic demonstration of the feasibility of such screening. Screening for this tumor became a model for screening for other malignancies: breast, colon and prostate. My text follows the early history of the Pap smear and the conditions that led to its transformation into a routine screening test, despite persistent problems in stabilizing the readings of microscopic slides. It then analyzes the consequences of diffusion of the Pap smear, controversies surrounding this test, the mutual shaping of diagnostic tests and the disease cervical cancer, and the problematic extension of the lessons learned in screening for cervical tumors to other malignancies.

cervical cancer; Pap smear; cancer screening; cancer activism; public health

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