Doctors share knowledge for Women’s Health Week

LEWISTOWN — For 2019 Women’s Health Week, Doctors William E. Crowder, obstetrician-gynecologist with Geisinger-Lewistown Hospital and Sarah Ramirez, family physician with Penn State Health Medical Group, want women to be aware that cervical health issues, such as cervical cancer or human papillomavirus, are preventable and treatable.

“The power of knowledge is prevention,” Ramirez said. “Today, cervical cancer is entirely preventable with vaccination and routine screening (and) HPV associated cancers of the cervix are preventable with (the) HPV vaccine.”

Crowder said annual Pap tests performed by health care providers look for changes to cells of the cervix. Changes can detect issues like HPV, cervical dysplasia and cervical myomas as well as cervical cancer, cervitis, cervical incompetence or cervical polyps and cysts.

Cervitis is an inflammation of the cervix, which usually results from infection. Symptoms include bleeding between menstrual cycles, pain with intercourse or during a cervical exam and abnormal discharge, Crowder said. Sometimes cervitis is related to a sexually transmitted disease, but Ramirez noted it can sometimes be caused by a yeast infection or bacterial vaginosis. Crowder said treatment of cervitis involves treating the cause of the inflammation.

Cervical incompetence is a widening of the cervix before a baby is due and polyps or cysts are abnormal growths on the cervix, Crowder said. Symptoms of polyps or cysts are not always present, but can include heavier menstruation, unusual discharge or abnormal bleeding from the affected area.

Ramirez said cervical dysplasia is the presence of abnormal or pre-cancerous cells on the cervix and be caused by HPV, but there are no symptoms to cervical changes caused by HPV.

“Thus, there is a need for women to keep up with their scheduled screening,” Ramirez said.

Ramirez said that more than 4,000 women die from cervical cancer each year, despite the United States Preventive Services Task Force recommending that women ages 30 to 65 receive high-risk HPV DNA testing every five years to screen for cervical cancer. Crowder said treatment options for cervical cancer include surgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy or a combination of the three.

“Deciding on the kind of treatment depends on several factors, such as the stage of the cancer, the patient’s age and state of health,” Crowder said.

According to cdc.gov, the National Institute of Health and National Cancer Institute also offer clinical trials for new treatment options for cervical cancer and complimentary medicine — used in addition to standard treatments — as well as alternative medicine, which is used instead of standard treatments. Treatments include acupuncture, herbs, vitamins, tai chi and yoga. The Centers for Disease Control recommend talking with physician before using either an alternative or complimentary medicine, as they “may make standard cancer treatments not work as well.”

Common symptoms associated with cervical cancer include abnormal, vaginal bleeding, extremely heavy menstruation, unusual vaginal discharge, pelvic, back or leg pain, extreme fatigue and sudden weight-loss.

“Most invasive cervical cancers are found in women who have not had regular Pap tests,” Crowder said. “A well-proven way to prevent cervix cancer is to have testing to find pre-cancers before they can turn into invasive cancer. The Pap smear and the HPV test are used for this. If a pre-cancer is found, it can be treated, stopping cervical cancer before it really starts.”

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