Gynecological Cancer Awareness Saves Lives
By Public Relations Specialist Christine Adams
There could be many reasons not to schedule recommended exams and screenings — “I don’t have any concerning symptoms” or “I feel healthy, there’s no need,” to name a few. However, even without signs or symptoms, these appointments could be lifesaving. September is Gynecological Cancer Awareness month and a great reminder of the importance of scheduling well-woman exams.
Gynecological cancer is any cancer that starts in a woman’s reproductive organs within the pelvis. The five main types include cervical, vaginal, uterine, ovarian, and vulvar. Each cancer has different signs, symptoms, risk factors, and prevention strategies. Some do not have any symptoms at all, making it even more important for everyone with a uterus to attend well-woman exams as recommended.
Treatment is most effective when cancer is detected and treated early. Well-woman exams are recommended annually with a focus on a woman’s sexual, reproductive, and overall health. They may include a clinical breast exam, mammogram, pelvic exam, Pap test or Pap smear, and/or a human papillomavirus test. It not only aids in detecting early signs of cancer and other health concerns, but it also provides an opportunity to start conversations about changes, screening options, family planning, health goals, and more.
Before attending an exam, it may be helpful to list any changes, concerns, or questions to ask. Some topics of discussion may include:
- An irregular, painful, very heavy period
- Family history of cancer and/or genetic mutations (BRCA 1, BRCA 2)
- Physical changes that are out of the ordinary
- Changes in breast tissue
- Abnormal vaginal discharge or bleeding
Customer-owners can also use this time to ask about the benefits of the HPV vaccine. Receiving the HPV vaccine can prevent 90% of HPV cancers including cervical, vaginal, and vulvar cancer, and is most effective when given before exposure to the virus occurs. It is recommended for boys and girls ages 11-12 but can be administered between ages 9 to 26, depending on individual factors.
Each person is unique, and screenings may differ for everyone. The general recommended age for a Pap test is 21 and every three years after if results are normal. After age 30, women can choose to either get a Pap test every three years or get a Pap and HPV test every five years, if test results have been normal.
While September is a great month to act and review the signs and symptoms of gynecological cancer, it is important to be mindful of changes or concerning symptoms throughout the year — don’t wait for an annual exam if changes or concerns arise.
For more information on gynecological cancers or to learn more about well-woman exams, customer-owners can connect with their primary care teams directly. Schedule an appointment through MyHealth.