Cervical Cancer and Well-Woman Visits
According to the American Cancer Society, in 2014, approximately 12,360 new cases of cervical cancer will be diagnosed and an estimated 4,020 women will die from the disease. Cervical cancer was once the leading cause of cancer death in women, but between 1950 and 1992, the cervical cancer death rate dropped by 70%. This is due to the increased use of pap testing.
What is Cervical Cancer?
The cervix is the lower part of the uterus and it has an important role in the reproductive process. The beginning stages of cervical cancer start when the cells of the cervical lining begin to change. The process of these cells’ transformation into cancer can take one year – several years. If undetected and untreated, a tumor may develop in the cervix and spread to surrounding tissue.
What are the Causes?
Experts say that nearly 99% of cervical cancer develops from high-risk cases of HPV (human papillomavirus.) The most high-risk strains of HPV are 16 and 18. These two strains are responsible for approximately 70% of all cases of cervical cancer. HPV can be prevented with a vaccine, but it is only effective in those who have not already contracted the virus.
Am I at Risk?
There are several factors and behaviors that increase your risk of cervical cancer:
Smoking – Tobacco products contain several cancer-causing chemicals. These chemicals are carried through the blood stream and can effect the body’s organs. Women who smoke are twice as likely to get cervical cancer than those who don’t.
Poor Diet – Women who do not eat fruit and vegetables are at higher risk.
Being Overweight – Women who are overweight have been found to be at higher risk.
Multiple Full-Term Pregnancies – Women who have had three or more children are at a higher risk than those who have had fewer than three or have not been pregnant at all.
Pregnancy at a Young Age – Women who have carried out a full-term pregnancy before the age of 17 are twice as likely to get cervical cancer.
At Providence Obstetrics and Gynecology, we understand that preventative healthcare is very important in maintaining health and preventing disease. For women, the yearly or annual Well-Woman visit provides screening for gynecologic and breast conditions.
All women have a full exam during their visit, including a breast and pelvic exam. Starting at age 21, Pap smears are also performed, depending on different factors such as age and if you’ve had a hysterectomy. Screening for sexually transmitted infections can also be performed, if appropriate.
During a Well-Woman visit, a physician also looks at your overall health, age, weight, family history and other medical conditions and makes recommendations. You might be referred for blood work to screen for different conditions such as thyroid disease or diabetes, or for an imaging test such as a mammogram. Mammogram screening typically starts at age 40. Colonoscopy screening for colon cancer typically starts at age 50.
At Providence OB/GYN, our physicians work with you to keep you as healthy as possible. For more information about Well-Woman exams, or to set up an appointment, please call 704-372-4000. Our office hours are: Monday through Thursday: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Friday: 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. You can also visit us on MyChart.