January is often viewed as a new beginning, a time for creative resolutions and passionate pledges to embrace health. Preventive check-ups are an easy way to maintain health and catch health issues earlier, in a more treatable stage. With January being cervical cancer screening month, it’s a great opportunity to focus in on cervical health for the New Year. Cervical cancer is one of those illnesses that can be highly curable if caught early. More than 13,000 women in the United States are diagnosed with cervical cancer each year, and around 4,000 will die from it. Cervical cancer is the fourth most common type of cancer in women worldwide.
Cervical cancer is a cancer that starts in the cervix, the lower part of the uterus. Cervical cancer is most often spread through various strains of the human papillomavirus (HPV), a sexually transmitted infection. It often does not have any signs or symptoms until the cancer has spread, which is why screenings are so important. To live well and avoid the risk of cervical cancer, it is important for women to have Pap smears (also known as “Paps”). A Pap checks for changes in cervical cells and detects infection or the presence of cervical cancer. The American Cancer Society recommends that all women should begin cervical screening at age 21. Recommendations are screening with Pap smear every three years for women ages 21 to 65. Alternatively, women aged 30 to 65 could opt for a HPV plus Pap screen every five years.
Screening tests can prevent cervical cancers by finding abnormal cervical changes, or pre-cancers, before they turn in to cervical cancer. The HPV vaccine is another way to prevent cervical cancer. The HPV vaccine helps protect women against certain types of HPV that can lead to cervical cancer. The vaccine is most effective when given around 11 or 12 years of age. However, vaccination is recommended through the age of 26 if not previously vaccinated. Newer recommendations have even shown a benefit of vaccination until the age of 45 after a discussion with your provider to see if this is right for you.
It is crucial to know and identify the signs and symptoms of cervical cancer in case a cancer goes unnoticed. Symptoms include:
- Abnormal vaginal bleeding (between periods or after intercourse)
- Pelvic Pain
- Increase urinary frequency
- Abnormal vaginal discharge
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, please see your healthcare provider for evaluation.
At Henry County Medical Center, we have our own women’s health providers at Paris Women’s Center. We offer three physicians along with three nurse practitioners to handle all of your women’s health needs. We are proud to welcome our newest provider, Sandra Boxell, MD, to the Henry County Community and Paris Women’s Center. Call our office at 731-644-8225 for an appointment for your women’s health needs.