Screenings important to detect gynecological cancer

MANISTEE COUNTY — Facts show that each year nearly 98,000 new cases of gynecological cancers will occur in the U.S. resulting in 30,000 deaths.

The good news is that these cancers are largely preventable, and, if detected early, curable. Regular screenings and vaccinations remain key to early detection and prevention.

At West Shore Medical Center OB/GYN physicians and providers offer key resources and expertise to help women who suspect a problem in their reproductive organs.

“There are essentially five primary types of gynecological cancer,” said Jennifer Cameron, CNM, a certified nurse midwife and primary care provider for women at the hospital. “Those are cervical, ovarian, uterine, vaginal and vulvar cancers.”

Cervical cancer forms in the cervix, which is the lower, narrow part of the uterus, and is most often caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). It is the only gynecological cancer with a screening test, called a Pap test. This cancer develops slowly, starting as a precancerous condition known as dysplasia. If untreated, dysplasia can turn into cervical cancer, which can spread to the bladder, intestines, lungs and liver. Symptoms of cervical cancer may include abnormal vaginal bleeding, unusual discharge, periods that last longer or have a heavier flow than usual and bleeding after menopause.

When abnormalities are found following a Pap test, further testing or follow-up is needed. This may include an HPV test to check for the presence of high-risk strains of HPV that are most likely to cause cancer. There are more than 100 different kinds of HPV, and not all of them create health problems. A biopsy of the cervix also may be necessary and/or removal of the cancerous cells.

Prevention of cervical cancer comes in the form of two vaccines. Gardasil and Cervarix are vaccines approved by the Food and Drug Administration that trigger the body to produce antibodies to protect against infection. Both vaccines are effective against two types of high-risk HPVs that cause about 70 percent of cervical cancers.

West Shore Medical Center providers offer Pap tests and HPV vaccinations.

The other four gynecological cancers require an examination and lab tests to determine if cancer is present. Unusual vaginal bleeding, feeling full too quickly from eating, frequent urination, rash and sores, all are symptoms that should not be ignored.

For more information and concerns about gynecological health, women should contact their health care provider. For those who need a primary care provider, call 800-533-5520.

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