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    I want to Scream

    by Ngozi Osuagwu, MD | August 30th, 2021

    I want to Scream

    My friend was telling me a story about a woman she knew who was about 50 years old who was diagnosed with cervical cancer.

    “How did that happened?”  I asked my friend. “Wasn’t she seeing a doctor?”

    “Yes, she was, but she never got a pap smear, she was not seeing a gynecologist.”

    When I hear stories like this, I want to scream. Although, January is officially Cervical Cancer Awareness Month, I wanted to use this opportunity as a reminder to all that cervical cancer is highly preventable.

    When was your last pap smear?  Most people who are diagnosed with cervical cancer have not gotten a pap smear or have not followed up on an abnormal pap smear. It is not enough to get a pap smear. You must know the results of your pap smear.  A pap smear is a screening test for cervical cancer. It cannot tell you that you have cancer. If it is abnormal, you will need additional testing. If you are between the ages of 21 – 29 years old, you should be getting your pap smear at least every three years. If you are 30 years and above, you should get a pap smear and human papillomavirus (HPV) testing every 3 – 5 years. If the pap smear is abnormal or the HPV test comes back positive, you may need to get your pap smear earlier than 3 years or you may need additional testing. 

    Have you, your family and friends gotten the HPV vaccine? The HPV vaccine is available for ages 9 to 26 years old. The ideal time to get the vaccine is between ages 11 – 13. If you get the vaccine before age 15, you only need two doses. If you get the vaccine 15 years and older then you will need three doses. It is best to get the vaccine before you have been exposed to HPV, however even if you have been exposed to or test positive for HPV, you can still get the vaccine. The vaccine has gotten approval to be given up to age 45 years old but not a lot of insurance companies are paying for people ages 27 – 45 years old. I believe if you have been having abnormal pap smears or have had HPV and you are between 27 – 45 years old, you should fight to get vaccine. You may have to pay out of pocket.

    How many doctors do you have? I believe all women should have an OB/GYN and a primary care physician. Women’s health care is complicated and I think it is hard to keep up with everything. With the Affordable Care Act, you are allowed to see two doctors for preventative health services without cost-sharing. This means you should be able to see a gynecologist and a primary care doctor without having to pay a copay if it is related to health prevention. I know some might say that their primary care physician does their pelvic exam or their OB/GYN serves as their primary care physician and that is quite okay. My thought is by having two physicians; you have an extra set of eyes making sure that you are well.

    For more information on cervical cancer, visit the cdc website here.

    2 Responses to “I want to Scream”

    1. Thank you! Just sent reminders to my girls and my sisters:-)

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    Secure Your Copy of Letters to My Sisters by Dr. Ngozi Osuagwu.
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    The book discusses common gynecological and women’s health issues in a series of witty and entertaining letters. These letters, all educational, offer suggestions on what approaches to take in tackling the medical problems that typically bring women to an ob/gynecologist. The letters are spiced with art, a poem and quotes. Although its emphasis is on gynecology and women’s health, it touches on some other medical issues that make women visit their doctors.

    The second half of the book briefly discusses the most common gynecological conditions and also provides an overview of sexually transmitted infections. A list of annotated websites dealing with the different topics in the book is provided for the reader who wants to pursue each subject in depth.




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