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    This Should Not Be Happening

    by Ngozi Osuagwu, MD | April 28th, 2019

    This Should Not Be Happening

    I was disturbed by an Op-Ed written by Annerieke Daniel in Alabama Live. The title was “With the highest rate of cervical cancer in the U.S., black women in Alabama are losing out on health care”. In the piece, she states that Black women are more than one-and-a-half times as likely to die from cervical cancer as white women in the U.S. In Alabama-which has the highest rate of cervical cancer mortality of any US state-it is almost twice as likely. Although I was aware of the stats, it still hits at your core especially as an OB/GYN when you read about it. We have the tools to prevent cervical cancer and yet not everyone has access. This should not be happening anywhere in the world, especially in the U.S.

    What do we need to do? We need to spread the word – cervical cancer is preventable.

    1. Get your Pap smear and if you are over 30 years old make sure that your doctor orders human papillomavirus (HPV) testing. We no longer get Pap smears yearly. Most will be tested every 3 – 5 years depending on the testing that was done.
    2. Know your results. Do not accept ‘no news is good news’.
    3. If your Pap smear is abnormal or the HPV test is positive, find out what type of follow up you will need. Depending on the results, you may need surgery, colposcopy or a repeat Pap smear. The major thing is not to ignore an abnormal result.
    4. Get your HPV vaccine. It used to be for women and men ages 9 – 26, but it has expanded to age 45 years old. For those who are 27 – 45 years old, confirm that it is covered by your insurance. It takes time for the insurance company to come onboard with new recommendations. I do not want you to get stuck with the bill.
    5. Limit the amount of sexual partners. Use condoms.
    6. Quit smoking.
    7. Do not let lack of insurance stop you from getting your Pap smear. In each State, there are places you can go to get your Pap smear free.
    8. If you have any abnormal vaginal bleeding for example bleeding after intercourse, bleeding in between your periods, get evaluated by your health care provider.
    9. Eat plenty of vegetables and fruits.
    10. Share the information with friends and family.

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    With her trademark wit and straightforward communication, Dr. Osuagwu continues to dole out valuable medical advice using the letter form and addressing women’s health conditions and issues in a method that was praised for its innovative approach in her earlier award-winning book, Letters to My Sisters: Plain Truths and Straightforward Advice from a Gynecologist. In this book, each letter is paired with reference sources and statistics about the condition that is the subject of the letter.

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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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