Ashley Schroeder is a health educator at Benteh Nuutah Valley Native Primary Care Center. Women’s health is a passion for her and a subject close to her heart.
In September, Southcentral Foundation promoted gynecological cancer awareness and encouraged women to Know the Big 5 and Thrive. The five most common gynecological cancers include cervical, uterine or endometrial, ovarian, vulvar, and vaginal cancers.
This year, the Big 5 campaign highlighted human papilloma virus (HPV) and its link to gynecological cancer. Men and women are both affected by cancers caused by HPV. In women, HPV can cause cancers of the cervix, vagina, vulva, anus, and oropharynx (throat, tongue, and tonsils). In men, HPV can cause cancers of the oropharynx, anus, and penis. After infection with HPV, cancer does not necessarily develop right away. It can, however, start changing healthy cells into cancerous cells over time, which sometimes takes years to develop.
The best way to prevent these cancers is to stop them before they begin. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the HPV vaccination prevents over 90% of HPV-related cancers. Children (boys and girls) ages 11 – 12 may receive a series of two HPV vaccines along with their other adolescent vaccinations. If an individual is currently unvaccinated, adolescent and adult women can receive the vaccination series through the age of 26, and adolescent and adult men can receive the vaccination series through age 21. These age-range recommendations may be extended depending on other health risks or lifestyle factors; in all cases, it is important to have an open conversation with your medical provider and advocate for your own health.
Through this campaign, SCF hopes to reduce the stigma surrounding these health issues and to increase awareness about the different forms of cancer that affect women. It is important that women feel empowered to ask their providers questions about gynecological cancers and preventative screenings, and that men feel empowered to discuss HPV and the related cancers. Customer-owners at SCF, are both customers of health care services and owners of their own health. Through shared responsibility, providers and customer-owners can make informed decisions that support the most positive outcomes. Be informed, and Know the Big 5 and Thrive in good health.
For more information about the wellness center or women’s health topics, contact the wellness center at (907) 631-7630, or visit southcentralfoundation.com/services/health-education-and-wellness/valley-wellness-center.