Dr. Meridith Farrow’s Thoughts on Gynecologic Cancer Awareness Month

By Dr. Meridith Farrow, MD, FACOG

Reports in the news about the annual well-woman exam are confusing! Do women need an examination every year? Is a Pap needed every year? The answers are YES and MAYBE! The annual well-woman visit is an excellent opportunity for counseling concerning a healthy lifestyle, minimizing health risks, and the physical exam that is done assesses overall health. The collection of the Pap is individualized based on the woman’s age and history.

Abnormal Bleeding Is the Most Common Symptom of Uterine Cancer

Women over the age of 55 are more likely than younger women to be diagnosed with uterine cancer. Younger women, however, can be at increased risk in certain situations. Obesity, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), and diabetes are among the conditions that increase the risk. Bleeding that occurs after menopause, heavy bleeding with periods or bleeding in between periods should all be evaluated by a Gynecologist. Early detection is the key to keeping women healthy!

New Pap Guidelines May Miss Some Cervical Cancers in Young Women

Over the last 30 years, the cervical cancer death rate has gone down by more than 50% because of the Pap test. The Pap test finds changes in the cervix before cancer develops. Cervical cancer is one of the most preventable cancers today! Yet many women do not have this testing done. Changes in Pap test guidelines are causing some women to think that the Pap test is no longer necessary. Studies are underway investigating the impact of the new Pap guidelines. Many doctors make the Pap test a requirement for prescribing birth control, therefore many women stop going in for their tests after they have had tubal sterilization or no longer need birth control. Many women do not realize that the risk of developing cervical cancer is still present as they age.

The Pap Test Is Still Necessary for Some Women, and It Saves Lives!

The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that all women have an annual visit with a healthcare provider capable of performing a pelvic examination if needed. The Annual Well-Woman visit is a health assessment and should include screening, evaluation, and counseling for a variety of concerns. Based on your age and risk factors, a Pap will be done if needed.

Dr. Jessie Bender’s Thoughts on Gynecologic Cancer Awareness Month

Cervical cancer was once one of the most common causes of cancer death for American women. But over the last 30 years, the cervical cancer death rate has gone down by more than 50% because of the Pap test. This screening procedure can find changes in the cervix before cancer develops. Cervical cancer is one of the most preventable cancers today! Yet many women do not have this testing done.

Unfortunately, news reports concerning recent changes in Pap test guidelines have been confusing. Some women think that the Pap test is no longer necessary. Many doctors make the Pap test a requirement for prescribing birth control, therefore many women stop going in for their tests after they have had tubal sterilization or no longer need birth control. Many women do not realize that the risk of developing cervical cancer is still present as they age. The Pap test is still necessary for some women, and it saves lives!

There is a connection between the human papillomavirus (HPV) and cervical cancer. If you have HPV, it’s even more important to get regular Pap tests. Vaccines are available that prevent HPV infection and cancer caused by HPV.

The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that all women have an annual visit with a healthcare provider capable of performing a pelvic examination if needed. The annual Women’s Wellness visit is a health assessment.

Cervical Cancer is preventable. Your ANNUAL GYN visit is important. We offer Women’s Wellness visits, with Pap tests and HPV testing if needed. We offer counseling regarding the HPV vaccine and the administration of the HPV vaccine if indicated.

Dr. Michelle White’s Thoughts on Gynecologic Cancer Awareness Month

By Dr. Michelle White, MD, FACOG

Vaginal and vulvar cancers are very rare. All women are at risk of these cancers. About 25% of women diagnosed with these cancers die from the disease. For this reason, it is important for every woman to learn about vaginal and vulvar cancers.

Each year, nearly 1,000 women are diagnosed with vaginal cancer and about 3,500 women with vulvar cancer in the U.S. These cancers typically occur in women in their fifties and sixties. Many vaginal and vulvar cancers are caused by human papillomavirus (HPV), a common virus that is passed from one person to another during sex. Other risk factors for these cancers include having cervical precancer or cancer, having a condition that makes it hard for your body to fight off health problems, and smoking. Some of these risks can be reduced by the HPV vaccine, limiting sexual partners, and not smoking.

Most vaginal cancers do not cause symptoms early on. When vaginal cancer does cause symptoms, they may include:

  • Vaginal discharge or bleeding that is not normal for you
  • A change in bathroom habits (blood in the stool or urine, more frequent trips to the bathroom, or constipation)
  • Abdomen or pelvic pain especially with urination or sex

Vulvar cancers often cause symptoms that may include:

  • Itching, burning or bleeding on the vulva
  • Color changes to the skin on the vulva
  • Sores, lumps, or ulcers on the vulva that do not go away
  • Pelvic pain especially with urination or sex

There are no tests that can find vaginal and vulvar cancers at this time. Your ANNUAL GYN visit is very important to look for signs of vulvar and vaginal cancer. We offer Women’s Wellness visits, HPV vaccinations to girls and women, and assistance with quitting smoking.

Dr. Sherley Samuels’ Thoughts on Gynecologic Cancer Awareness Month

By Dr. Sherley Samuels, MD, FACOG

Uterine cancer is the most common cancer of the female reproductive organs.

It is estimated that approximately 54,000 women will be diagnosed with uterine cancer during the year of 2015. Endometrial cancer, cancer of the inner uterine lining, is the most common type of uterine cancer. Cancer of the muscle layer of the uterus is a rarer form.

Women over the age of 55 are more likely than younger women to be diagnosed with endometrial cancer. Younger women, however, can be at increased risk in certain situations. Obesity increases a woman’s risk of endometrial cancer. Moreover, any ailment that prevents a woman from ovulating for long periods of time, such as polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), can also increase the risk.

Endometrial cancer commonly presents with abnormal uterine bleeding. This includes bleeding that occurs after menopause has already taken place (postmenopausal bleeding), heavier bleeding with periods, or bleeding in between periods. Other symptoms include abnormal discharge, pelvic mass and/or pain, and weight loss. In order to make a diagnosis of endometrial cancer, a sample of the inner lining of the uterus must be examined by a pathologist. This tissue is obtained by an OB/GYN either via an endometrial biopsy in the office or a surgical procedure.

If uterine cancer is diagnosed prior to spreading outside of the uterus, the five-year survival rate is 95%. It is important to seek medical attention if you have any bleeding that is not typical of your menstrual cycle. Early detection can mean a more favorable prognosis!