By Dr. Colleen Sholar
January is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month, and while I know there is no end to these month or day designations, cancer screenings and wellness is very important so let’s take a minute to consider some recommendations.
Cervical Cancer was once a common problem, I hope you don’t know anyone who has cervical cancer because we now have great prevention, screenings and treatments for cervical pre-cancer.
- PREVENTION includes the HPV vaccine and it is recommended for everyone, males and females, because we know that HPV is a virus that causes not only cervical cancer but many other cancers as well. Gardasil, one of the HPV vaccines, can prevent 9 out of 10 cases of cervical cancer! Unfortunately, in Idaho about only 48% of females and 44% of males have been vaccinated as of 2020. Ideal age to start the vaccine is <16y/o.
- SCREENING include pap smears starting at age 21 and continuing at least every 3 years until age 30 then every 3-5 years until age 65 based on the test done and results. Idaho ranks 50th out of the 52 states (+DC &PR) in cervical cancer screening rates.
- TREATMENT is best left between a woman and her doctor, but know that the median age of women who died of cervical cancer in ID is 64 and that’s pretty young with the life expectancy being another 2 decades.
I encourage every woman to schedule their annual wellness exam, there is no rush but get a date set up over the next 6 months, mark your calendar and take the few hours to make yourself and your health the priority that it should be. If you don’t have insurance the State of Idaho does have a program for women’s health screenings, search for “ID Women’s Health Check” or call the clinic to see if you qualify.
While you are at your wellness check talk to your provider about other wellness screenings remembering that even for those without increased risk factors colon cancer screening begins at age 45, mammograms at age 50, and every woman should get a baseline bone density screening at 65. If you are or were a smoker ask if you qualify for lung cancer screening. Come to the Women’s Night Out at the OHC clinic Thursday 1/26 @ 5:30 to find out more.
Your family will benefit from a healthy you!