January is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month
January is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month. It’s the perfect reminder for women to get their annual pap smears that can detect cancer.
One year ago, Kelly Ardoin had her regular pap smear checkup. In that exam, abnormal cells were found. Those cells turned out to be adenocarcinoma, a type of cancer found in the uterus. Ardoin was recommended to a gynecologist, which is where she met Dr. Michael Finan at Singing River Cancer Clinic in Pascagoula. “When they say the word cancer, that’s scary because you do think about your family. I have three small children and you just have a lot of concerns, Dr. Finan was wonderful and explained things and everything was fine for me.”
By catching the cancer early, Kelly had a hysterectomy in March and still checks in with her doctor every three months.
The abnormal cells that turn into cancer relates to a virus called human papillomavirus infection, known as HPV. Dr. Finan said, “There’s actually a vaccine that has almost 100 percent protection against that virus and the vaccine has been on the market for over 30 years and its extremely safe and worldwide track record of safety and effectiveness but only a third of the population gets the vaccine.”
Symptoms from cervical cancer include bleeding and smelly discharge. If the cancer is not caught early enough, doctors have to use radiation and chemo to treat the cancer. “Pap smears are designed to pick up cells before they turn into cancer and most abnormal pap smears are not from cancer, they are from pre- cancer cells. So that’s the goal, don’t wait until you’re symptomatic.”
There is a federally funded program called National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program for women that have no insurance to help with annual pap smears. All you have to do is bring it up at your GYN.