Of the five gynecologic cancers that women are typically prone to, cervical cancer is the easiest to prevent through testing and early detection. Still, more than 12,000 women across the nation develop the cancer each year according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Knowing how to talk with your doctor about risks and symptoms continues to be key in combating the seventh leading cancer among Texas women. “Like most cancers, being proactive in doing your research and talking with your physician about risks is imperative,” said Dr. Tim Jones, a family practice physician at Rolling Plains Memorial Hospital (RPMH). “Unlike some diseases, cervical cancer can many times go unnoticed or symptoms could be mistaken for other illnesses – causing the cancer to advance to a dangerous stage before detection.”
Cervical cancer is a disease in which cells within the cervix grow uncontrollably. As with most cancers, if untreated, it can quickly spread to other parts of the body and affect vital organs. Few women under the age of 20 develop cervical cancer as most that are diagnosed are between the ages of 25 and 55. According to Dr. Jones, risk factors for cervical cancer include smoking, low immune systems, use of birth control pills for five years or longer, and having given birth to more than three children. The human papilloma virus (HPV) is cause of almost all cervical cancers. HPV is a common virus in both men and women that is spread through sexual intercourse. The CDC estimates that half of sexually active people will have HPV at some point in their lives, but few women will develop cervical cancer as a result. Cervical cancer is highly preventable through screenings by a gynecologist and a vaccine to prevent HPV infections. Long survival rates with a healthy life are possible if cervical cancer is detected and treated at an early stage. There are several tests that can be performed to screen for cervical cancer. Pap smears are often the first test performed to detect pre-cancerous cells or cancer. If the results come back abnormal, additional tests may be performed before final diagnosis.
Screenings and vaccinations are covered by most health insurance plans. It is recommended that you talk with your physician about the appropriate screening and vaccination method for you.
“A great way to open the topic for discussion with your physician is to simply ask for their recommendation on cervical cancer screening and prevention,” said Dr. Jones. “Opening the floor for discussion can potentially save your life and that of the more than 4,200 women who die from cervical cancer each year.”
Rolling Plains Memorial Hospital is a community-focused healthcare provider serving residents in Nolan County, Texas. Founded in 1976, Rolling Plains Memorial Hospital offers a wealth of medical services including: 24 hour emergency care, advanced radiology services including CT scanning and MRIs, outpatient lab, physical therapy, surgical services, swing bed services, patient education, home health and assistive services, and more. For additional information, please visit www.rpmh.net .