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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. 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!