NMCSD's Focus for December is Promoting Cervical and combating cancer Awareness
November is Diabetes Awareness Month
October is Brain Awareness Month
September Is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month
July Is Eye Safety Awareness Month
June Is Cancer Survivor Month
May Is Physical Fitness Month
April Is Alcohol Awareness Month
March Is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month
February Is American Heart Month
January Is Cervical Health Awareness Month
According to the American Cancer Society, cervical cancer is currently the second-leading cause of cancer death among women worldwide; second only to breast cancer in common deaths of women from cancer. In 2008 an estimated 9,000 women were diagnosed with cervical cancer and more than 3,000 died from it in the U.S. alone.
According to the Center for Disease Control genital human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted infection which can potentially lead to cervical cancer. There are more than 40 types of HPV that can infect the skin, mucous membranes and genital areas of men and women, including the skin of the penis, vulva (area outside the vagina), anus, and the linings of the vagina, cervix, and rectum. HPV is not visible to the eye, so most people who become infected with HPV do not know they have it, which is why regular medical exams are so important.
Through screening and tests, cervical cancer is highly preventable in most Western countries. When cervical cancer is found early, it is highly treatable and associated with a long survival rate and a good quality of life. Most cases of cervical cancer can be prevented by having an annual pap smear (or pap test) and through vaccinations.
Through a pap test, providers can detect changes in the cells in a patient’s cervix and discern if the patient has an infection, abnormal or unhealthy cervical cells, or cervical cancer. It is important for all women over the age of 21 or those who are sexually active to have annual pap tests, along with pelvic exams, as part of their routine health care plan.
Various factors can contribute to inaccurate test results by washing away or hiding abnormal cells of the cervix. Therefore, doctors suggest that for two days prior to the test patients avoid: Douching, using tampons, using vaginal creams, suppositories, using vaginal deodorants or intercourse, which may prevent an accurate assessment.
The process for diagnosing cancer is as follows: First there is a pap smear. If the pap comes back with abnormal cells, it is called dysplasia. Dysplasia means abnormal cells. The next step for the patient with dysplasia is a colposcopy. A colposcopy is a method of looking at the abnormal cells and collecting a tissue sample or biopsy. The biopsy will tell providers how abnormal the cells are. If the cells are diagnosed as severe cervical dysplasia then the next step for the patient is a leep. A leep is a procedure using electrocautery to remove abnormal areas in the cervix. But, if the biopsy comes back as cancer the next step for the patient is a hysterectomy. Depending on the stage and development of the cancer, a woman may be given the option of having the full surgical removal of her cervix or the removal of the cancerous area to preserve the opportunity to have children in the future.
Naval Medical Center San Diego promotes cervical health by offering pap smears for active duty personnel through the Obstetrics and Gynecological (OB/GYN) department without a referral. Military beneficiaries are required to have a referral through their primary care physician. To schedule an appointment for a pap smear call (619)-532-7000.
For more information regarding the promotion of cervical health and the prevention and care of sexually transmitted diseases and gynecological cancers visit NMCSD’s OB/GYN page:
The Center for Disease Control regarding HPV: http://www.cdc.gov/std/HPV/STDFact-HPV.htm
The Women’s health.gov website: http://www.womenshealth.gov/faq/pap-test.cfm#pap01