Living Well: Take Steps To Preserve Your Cervical Health
Suzanne Rashidian, DO
January marks the observance of Cervical Health Awareness Month.
Dr. Suzanne Rashidian, a gynecologist and obstetrician with One Health Obstetrics & Gynecology, said for cervical health, women should get their annual gynecological exams and routine Pap smears.
"Cervical cancer is not the No.1 gynecological cancer, but it is a type of cancer women can suffer from that is easily preventable with an annual exam and Pap smear," Rashidian said.
While there are some rare types of cervical cancer, a majority of such cancers are squamous cell cancers, she said.
"A high-quality Pap smear tests for the squamous cell cancers, which comprise 80 to 90 percent of cervical cancers, so that in and of itself, that's what a Pap smear is doing."
According to Rashidian, screening guidelines start at the age of 21.
From ages 21 to 29, a Pap smear is recommended every three years, she said. At 30, however, a Pap smear is recommended every three years, or a Pap
smear and HPV testing — called co-testing — every five years.
The results of those screenings "then guide the physicians to what the next step is."
Smoking can increase changes in the cervix and increases one's cervical cancer risk, Rashidian said, as can multiple sexual partners.
HPV, or human papillomavirus, is a group of more than 150 related viruses that can be spread through skin-to-skin contact, including sexual contact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"There are many types of HPV," the CDC website states. "Some HPV types can cause changes on a woman's cervix that can lead to cervical cancer over time, while other types can cause genital or skin warts."
According to the CDC, most people get HPV at some time in their lives. It typically causes no symptoms.
"For most women, HPV will go away on its own; however, if it does not, there is a chance that over time it may cause cervical cancer," the site reads.
Rashidian said the HPV vaccine is something that should be considered. While it doesn't protect against all strands of HPV, it does protect against strands that are high-risk to lead to cancer.
Women should also find a doctor they're comfortable with to "ask those though questions," she said. Doctors are there to educate patients on what needs to be done.
"You're only as healthy as your last doctor's visit."
Suzanne Rashidian, DO, is a primary care provider with Owensboro Health's One Health medical group. One Health Obstetrics & Gynecology does scheduled women's health and primary care visits, and also offers sick appointments with rapid turnaround. For more information call 844-44-MY-ONE (844-446-9663) or request an appointment with Suzanne Rashidian.
*This article was originally published on January 7, 2016 in the Owensboro Messenger-Inquier.