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Women’s Health | 2232 N. Hospital Blvd., Sullivan, IN 47882
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Monday: 10:00 am – 7:00 pm
Tuesday: 1:00 pm- 4:00 pm
Wednesday: 8:30 am – 5:00 pm
Thursday: 8:30 am – 5:00 pm
Cervical Cancer Screening Saves Lives:
Early Diagnosis Key to Survival
January is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month. When diagnosed at its earliest stages, cervical cancer is known to be one of the most preventable cancers—and the key to early diagnosis is routine cervical cancer screenings to identify cells at the pre-cancer stage. Below, Sam Wahib, OBGYN from Women’s Health at Sullivan County Community Hospital participates in a Q&A about cervical cancer and how Sullivan County compares to national averages.
Note: The Q&A that follows is about cervical cancer. Almost all cases of cervical cancer are caused by the HPV (Human Papillomavirus) virus. The HPV vaccine prevents more than 90% of HPV cancers. Read more about the HPV vaccine here.
Q: What is cervical cancer?
A: Cervical cancer is an abnormal growth of cells in the lining of the cervix. The cervix is a part of the female reproductive system that connects the vagina to the uterus.
There are two types of cervical cancer; squamous cell carcinoma which is more common and adenocarcinoma which is less common but more difficult to diagnose.
Q: What causes this abnormal growth of cells?
A: Almost all cases of cervical cancer are caused by the HPV (Human Papillomavirus), which spreads by sexual contact. This is why receiving the HPV vaccine is so important. Preventing the virus prevents the cancer in almost all cases.
Q: What are the risk factors of cervical cancer and who is at risk?
A: The risk factors include having family history of cervical cancer, having multiple pregnancies, prolonged use of oral contraceptive pills, smoking, practicing unprotected sex, having multiple sexual partners, not being vaccinated for HPV, and having an immunocompromised condition, like HIV/AIDS.
As far as who is most at risk, women of all ages and backgrounds are at risk of developing cervical cancer, although Hispanic women are more prone to develop cervical cancer and African American women have higher rates of dying from it.
Q: What is the survival rate of cervical cancer?
A: The survival rate of cervical cancer is greatly influenced by the stage at which the cancer is detected. For instance, if cervical cancer is detected at an early, pre-cancer stage, the 5-year relative survival rate is around 92%. Unfortunately, this rate decreases to 58% after the cancer has spread to the local tissues, and further decreases to an 18% survival rate once it has spread to tissues/body parts farther from the cervix.
It is important to note that due to the effectiveness of screening, deaths from cervical cancer declined by almost 70% between the years of 1955 and 1992.
Q: How can cervical cancer be detected while still at its earliest stages? Are there signs or symptoms to watch for?
A: Unfortunately, very often the patient has no noticeable, outward symptoms of cervical cancer at its earliest stages—when it is most treatable. The best opportunity to detect cervical cancer at its earliest, precancer stage—and to drastically improve survival rates—is to have routine cervical cancer screenings beginning at age 21.
If detected early, the cervical cancer can be treated successfully either with radiotherapy, chemotherapy, or surgery alone, or in combination.
Q: Do you have to be screened every year after the age of 21?
A: There are guidelines for how often you need to get screened. According to the guidelines of United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF), all women aged 21 to 65 should be screened for cervical cancer. Women aged 21 to 29 should be screened for Pap smear (cervical cytology) every 3 years. For women aged 30 to 65, the recommended screening is cervical cytology every 3 years, or every 5 years screening with high-risk human papillomavirus (hrHPV) or combination of both every 5 years.
Women of all ages are advised to go in annually for gynecological examination even if there is no pap test being done that year.
Q: Can you explain a little more about the screening methods used for cervical cancer?
A: There are two types of screening methods used for the diagnosis of cervical cancer:
HPV screening checks for the presence of specific types of human papillomavirus in the sample taken from the cervix.
The Pap smear (also called Pap test or cervical cytology) checks for changes in cervical cells caused by HPV. The sample is collected by inserting a small, narrow brush or spatula into the vagina, and the sample is stored in a container and sent for testing. Both Pap smear and HPV screening can be done in the same sample. You might feel some discomfort while doing the test but it shouldn’t be painful at all.
Q: What if a person does not have health insurance?
A: There are programs that can help with that. Don’t let that be the reason you aren’t scheduling your cervical screening—or any other life-saving screening or tests. I have an amazing staff that can help you navigate those issues. Just call the office.
Q: Can you discuss cervical cancer screening rates in Sullivan County specifically?
A: Of course. Every three years, the hospital contracts with an outside vendor to conduct a community needs assessment based on the
If we talk specifically about Sullivan County, Indiana, the women who live here are 40% less likely to receive cervical cancer screening compared to US national average of 18%. Since cancer is the second leading cause of death in the
Q: What can be done to increase the rates of cervical cancer screening in Sullivan County?
A: Informational articles like this one are an excellent step; however, people need to talk about it and raise awareness. And it doesn’t just need to be women raising awareness. Men need to raise awareness and support the women in their lives by asking them if they have made these potentially life-saving screening appointments. Women will often remind the men in their lives that they need to get their colonoscopies or their prostate exams. They will even call and make the appointment for them, but it is not always the same when it comes to women’s health issues. Sometimes women need reminded to prioritize their health as well.
Q: Any final thoughts to share?
A: Cervical cancer is known to be one of the most preventable cancers if diagnosed early by the identification of those pre-cancer cells. Also, women of all ages and backgrounds should keep their cervical cancer screening up-to-date. Sometimes there is a tendency to fall off schedule with routine screenings once you enter menopause or leave your childbearing years behind; however, twenty percent of diagnosed cervical cancer cases are in women over the age of 65.
As we know, the figures of not getting screened are very high among
I am the provider at the Women’s Health clinic on SCCH’s health campus, but there are other family practice providers who routinely perform these screenings as well. If you have questions, call the office at 812.268.2694 or go to our website at schosp.com.
Make An Appointment 812-268-2694
Wahib, Samir DO
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