TOMS RIVER, NJ, JANUARY 7, 2009 – The American Cancer Society estimates that in 2008, over 11,000 cases of invasive cervical cancer were diagnosed in the United States. While the death rate from cervical cancer is declining, 3,800 women in this country alone lost their lives to this disease. January is Cervical Health Awareness Month and Community Medical Center urges women to make cervical health a priority in 2009, scheduling an appointment for a Pap test today.
The cervix is the part of the uterus that connects the upper part of the uterus and the vagina. Cancer of the cervix occurs when those cells change, which can affect deeper cell layers or spread to other organs and cause damage. A Pap test is a screening procedure that detects changes in the cervix before cancer develops. It also helps detect cervical cancer at is earliest and most curable state. If cervical cancer is found and treated early, the cure rate is as high as 90%.
John R. Sutherland, MD, chairman of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Community Medical Center, said a Pap test is a medical procedure in which a sample of cells are removed from the cervix by a gynecologist or other health care provider during a pelvic examination. The cells are collected on a small instrument that resembles a brush for review under a microscope. The liquid is sent to a laboratory to be interpreted and examined for pre-malignant (pre-cancerous) or malignant (cancerous) changes, Dr. Sutherland explained.
“A Pap test, or smear, is a quick, simple and painless screening test that can virtually help to save a woman’s life,” Dr. Sutherland said. “Because in most cases, a Pap test can identify minor cellular abnormalities before they have had a chance to become malignant, woman who have regular Pap smears have a much greater chance of detecting and curing this form of cancer in its earliest stages.”
Dr. Sutherland added, “Because it can take many years for a normal cervical cell to gradually develop into precancerous cells that turn into cancer, it is imperative that annual Pap tests are performed to keep track of any changes occurring.”
Treatment options for cervical cancer depend upon the stage of the disease. Normally, the three main methods for treating cervical cancer include surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy – either alone or in combination.
Cancer of the cervix can occur at any age, however it is found most often in women older than 40 years, but can occur in younger women too. Therefore, Dr. Sutherland recommends women begin having annual Pap tests no later than 21 years of age. Risk for cervical cancer depends upon sexual history, immune system, health and lifestyle. Smoking and a poor diet can lead to cancers too. Certain other conditions or behaviors such as smoking, a poor diet, human papillomavirus (HPV) infection and chlamydia can also lead to a greater risk of developing cervical cancer.
Gardasil is a vaccine that helps protect against human papillomavirus, a common virus which can cause diseases of the genital area. For most people, the HPV virus goes away on its own. When the virus does not go away, it can develop into cervical cancer, precancerous lesions or genital warts. Although the Gardasil vaccine should not substitute for regular cervical cancer screenings by a health professional, the injection is for girls and women age 9 through 26 years of age.
“Women should not be afraid or embarrassed of having a Pap test,” Dr. Sutherland said. “This test should be something every woman makes sure to have every year, as it is vitally important to their overall health and well being. The advances available today to treat cervical cancer are very promising, but only if the disease is discovered as early as possible, and that is done through a Pap test. I urge women to make this exam a priority for 2009,” he said
Women who need to find a physician to schedule a Pap test should call Community Medical Center’s free physician referral service, the Link, at 1-888-724-7123.
The hospital also offer free cervical health exams, Pap smears and other clinical tests to uninsured Ocean County residents through the New Jersey Cancer Education and Early Detection (NJ CEED) grant. Exams are available at various sites throughout the county. For more information or to schedule an appointment, call
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