When was the last time you saw your doctor for a checkup, and yes, I mean a pap smear and pelvic exam? If you can’t remember – then it’s time to make an appointment. Routine visits to your gynecologist are essential to your health as a woman. Starting at age 21 – or when you become sexually active – you should begin getting pelvic examinations, which include a pap smear, every year. A pap smear is a simple procedure done in your doctor’s office. It is considered the best tool to detect precancerous conditions and tumors that could lead to cervical cancer. (more…)
It’s scary to get a phone call telling you that your pap smear results were not normal and you will need to come in for more testing. Thankfully, there are many causes of abnormal pap smear results and the majority do not mean that you have cancer–but instead that the cells located in the cervix have changed for one reason or another. In some cases, whatever has caused them to be abnormal may resolve on its own and others will need to have another pap smear to confirm those changes or additional testing to look more closely at the cells themselves. Abnormal pap smears can be caused by a variety of sources and your doctor will be able to tell you about your own case, but there are a few common causes. (more…)
Cervical cancer is the 5th most common cancer among women worldwide. Claiming the life of one woman every two minutes, cervical cancer is diagnosed in almost a half million women each year. In fact, there’s probably a good chance that either you or someone you know has been diagnosed with cervical cancer at some point. Highly treatable, most cases of cervical cancer can be caught early with proper, regular screenings by a physician like Dr. Hessel. Because most cases of cervical cancer can take between 10 and 15 years to develop, being evaluated each year by your doctor will help find those changes early—before they become cancer, and before you can become a statistic.
So what exactly is your cervix? Think of it like a balloon that has been blown up—the large part of the balloon is like your uterus, where babies grow until birth. The smaller section that you tie the knot in the balloon is like your cervix. Responsible for opening to allow babies to pass through the birth canal and as a passageway for fluids (like your period) to leave the uterus, your cervix is pretty important.
Risk factors for cervical cancer
Certain lifestyle choices and risk factors may make you more likely to have pre-cancerous or cancerous changes in your cervix. Smoking, having multiple sexual partners and starting sexual activity at a young age can all raise your risk for cervical cancer later in life. One of the most common causes of most cases of cervical cancer is the presence of a sexually transmitted virus known as HPV.
Also called Human Papilloma Virus, HPV is responsible for causing genital warts in some people—but be aware—not all carriers of the virus ever have a wart, and carriers may have the virus for many years without knowing it—making it very easy to spread through sexual contact. Because it is a virus, it never leaves your body. We can’t cure it with antibiotics but your doctor can help you suppress the virus with some medications if you should ever break out with any warts.
Preventing and treating cervical cancer
The best way to screen for cervical cancer is by seeing Dr. Hessel every year for a pap smear. A pap smear is a simple test that collects cells from the cervix and is then analyzed under a microscope for abnormal changes. A pap smear doesn’t hurt—the brush that collects the cells looks a lot like a pipe cleaner and you can’t feel it at all. If you have any abnormal cells from your pap smear, your doctor will probably want you to have testing more often and may offer other tests to determine how advanced your cervical changes are.
Dr. Hessel has been treating women just like you for years. As an accomplished and skilled women’s health physician, she will be able to guide you through your yearly screening and follow up with you if needed. Quality care is only part of the process—first, you have to come in. How long has it been since your last pap smear? We want to see you—make your appointment now and do your part in the fight against cervical cancer.