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Doc Talk | January is cervical cancer awareness month

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January is cervical cancer awareness month -- and doctors want women to use this as a reminder to get checked out.

There have been a lot of changes in recent years with the rules and regulations for pap smears, pelvic exams, and the HPV vaccine.

All this is vital information for you to prevent getting cervical cancer.

Being diagnosed with cervical cancer can be a long time coming.

“A woman can have an insult of some sort. Often it’s an encounter of hpv and years down the road, there will be cellular changes on the cervix,” says Dr. Christine Cimo Hemphill, Geisinger Holy Spirit OBGYN

The idea that a cancer can slowly grow inside you can be frightening.

But doctors say it’s actually a benefit.

“It’s one of the better cancers to do a screen for because it’s easy to screen for and it takes a long time for it to progress and identify,” she says.

A screening for cervical cancer consists of a simple pap smear and pelvic exam.

“They look for any abnormal shapes and appearance to those cells,” she says.

Dr. Hemphill says if your pap smear results are normal and you’re in your twenties, you only need a pap every three years.

If your results are normal and you’re in your thirties, you can wait even longer, every five years.

But an overall pelvic exam should still be done every year.

One of the best ways to prevent cervical cancer is to get the vaccine for h-p-v or the human papilloma virus.

“We’re seeing less incidents in the younger populations who have been vaccinated.”

For those who are diagnosed with cervical cancer, doctors say they’re finding it earlier.

“As far as catching it at the actual cancerous stage, we’re catching it the pre-cancerous stage.”

Symptoms of a problem are abnormal bleeding or an abnormal discharge.

If you do have cervical cancer, there are options.

“Excisional you can use a scalpel to remove the particular tissue of concern, sometime if it’s a little bit more invasive, a hysterectomy is needed.”

Dr. Hemphill says it’s important to remember that those symptoms of cervical cancer can also be symptoms of other infections or problems.

And so can an abnormal pap smear.

So there’s no need to be nervous until you talk to your doctor.

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